South America

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You can probably name at least 10 top attractions that make travel to South America a first choice for business and/or pleasure. You undoubtedly have a list of a dozen things you’ve always wanted to see and do south of the border. Then certainly there’s no better time than the very present to let Delta Air Lines introduce you—or reacquaint you—with a whole new world of vacation treasures and pleasures.

Throughout South America, you’re going to have the time of your life in vibrant cosmopolitan cities, known for their irresistible shopping, sophisticated to rustic restaurants whose chefs are winning international acclaim, and museums filled with artifacts from the continent’s rich pre-Columbian past.

Spurred by the increase in business travel, the boom in deluxe hotel infrastructure continues. Not only will you be delighted by a bevy of world-class and boutique hotels in the cities, but beyond are chic resorts and getaway spas by the sea, and mountain inns and eco-lodges in the rainforest.

Above all, top to bottom, South America fits the bill in new and involving experiences for adventure- and nature-loving travelers who want to accent vacations—or even business meetings—with hiking and mountain biking; skiing during the summer months and scuba diving anytime; river rafting and sea kayaking; birdwatching and llama trekking; exploring ancient cities; and enjoying people-to-people encounters.

The hottest tickets to the best vacation attractions in South America are those issued by Delta Air Lines, as we “keep climbing” to a whole new world aboard flights from the U.S. to nine dynamic destinations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Delta Air Lines is ready for takeoff when you are. Vamonos!



Buenos Aires

There are dozens of good reasons to stay awhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s lively cosmopolitan capital with a well-deserved reputation for offering some of the best of everything on the continent—best restaurants, best shopping, best nightlight and best hotels.


Everyone’s talking about luxe-boutiques, such as the 11-room Hub Porteño and 30-room Mio Buenos Aires in the chic La Recoleta district.


Visitors fly to Iguazu Falls—higher and wider than Niagara—that stretch almost two miles across the Argentine/Brazilian border. This is a lush region—home to subtropical rainforests, Jesuit ruins, and the wildlife haven of Esteros del Ibera, a natural wetland of swamps, lakes and lagoons. Also, fly to either Puerto Madryn or Trelew and find an Atlantic coast wildlife zone with dozens of land and sea birds, sea-faring mammals lolling about the beaches, and rheas, guanacos and maras loping about the windswept plains. A major sea lion colony and southern right whales (April to December) hug the coast at Puerto Piramides; 100 miles south find the largest rookery of Magellanic penguins in the world at Punta Tombo; farther south, colonies of elephant seals—males weighing up to three tons—socializing on the beaches. Take a day or a 2-night cruise to explore the Upsala, Spegazzini and Perito Moreno glaciers of Los Glacieres National Park outside El Calafate.


Mendoza is the ultimate vine-to-glass pilgrimage for wine lovers, who can really get involved during the annual crush (Vendimia) that comes at the end of the March harvest. Follow Los Caminos del Vino (southerly Valle de Uco is the best) that embraces some 80 wineries that offer tours and tastings. On Sundays, snare a ringside seat on Plaza Dorrego when the weekly San Telmo Antiques Fair is in full swing and tango dancers perform on every corner.


Go northwest to colonial Salta and Jujuy’s gaucho country. Also, drive the roads of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a world of rainbow-colored Andean and desert landscapes as well as remains from a pre-Incan past.


BEST TIME TO GO: The most beautiful months are October and November when the jacaranda trees are abloom, also fall (March-May) and spring (September-November)

FUN FACT: Beef is the favorite meat in Argentina: domestic consumption per capita in 2010 was 126 lbs., surpassed in the world only by neighboring Uruguay

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Buenos Aires

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport for six months after departure date, and tourist visa, which must be obtained prior to arrival from an Argentina consulate or online—visa cost is $160, valid for 10 years

CURRENCY: Argentine Peso

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: Argentine steaks, but a tasty rival is lamb, cooked for hours asado-style (over coals) at the estancias of Patagonia. Empanadas, of course, anytime, everywhere

BEST BUYS: Woolen and leather goods, silver work (from jewelry to gaucho belt buckles, ornate spurs to antique silverwares)

INFORMATION PLEASE: Argentine Government Tourist Office— or




Cathedral of Brasilia.
Cathedral of Brasilia.


Founded in 1960, the capital is internationally known and enjoyed for its modernism in urban design and architecture, carried out by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer whose boldest work is perhaps the Metropolitan Cathedral, with landscaping (seeded with plants from the Amazon) by Burle Marx. And do dine around, for the capital has one of the highest concentrations of starred restaurants in the country.


While here, stay by the lake at the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada, although business travelers usually head to the hotel sector, staying perhaps at the Tryp Convention or the Sonesta Brasilia.


Brasilia’s a great gateway to part of the greater Amazon Basin. The Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater marshland, shelters one of the last reserves of untouched wildlife on earth, a true ecological sanctuary of vast lowland plains, crisscrossed by rivers and dotted with lakes. Jaguar, caiman, capybara, peccaries and hundreds of species of birds fill the Pantanal to make this a truly natural paradise.


Drive 200 miles west from the capital to Goias Velho, a former gold mining town that is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in Brasilia. Its historic center is also a little-known UNESCO World Heritage site. On view are seven colonial churches, the most impressive being the 18h century Igreja de São Francisco de Paula.


The 2014 World Cup venue is Estadio Nacional de Brasilia (capacity 71,500).


A helicopter ride offers the best seat in the house to see that the city is laid out in the shape of an airplane.

The stunning beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
The stunning beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro

The mere mention of Rio de Janeiro conjures up a kaleidoscope of picture-postcard images: Sugar Loaf Mountain; the immense statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado; the dazzling strands of beaches; and downtown museums including the Museum of Naïve Art and one dedicated to Carmen Miranda. And with the Olympics coming to town, there are new attractions already in place, such as the Porto Maravilha waterfront development, featuring the green urbanism-themed Museum of Tomorrow, and everyone should at least once take in a Las Vegas-style samba revue.


Everyone loves to stay and play at one of Rio’s seaside hotels—from the Hotel Sofitel on Copacabana to the chic Fasano on Ipanema to the Marina All Suites Hotel on Leblon, as well as the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort.


Take a cool, early-morning walk around the Jardim Botanico, a 350-acre park with over 7,000 varieties of tropical plants, or go hiking in the Floresta de Tijuca, a vast rainforest that wraps itself around the city.


Dine out at a churrascaria, serving up Brazilian-style, all-you-can-eat meat. The nationwide chain, Porcao, is a good bet. Join the natives at the Sunday Hippie Market in Ipanema or on their daily beachside jogs. Come for the New Year’s celebration of Reveillon or swing out with the samba schools during Rio’s famous Carnaval bash (Feb. 28-March 4 in 2014).


Rent a board and catch the surf bus out to Barra for the best waves, or try hang gliding for a bird’s-eye view of Rio. Totally revamped and now back in play is the famous Maracana Stadium, the largest game stadium in the world, where the finals of the World Cup soccer matches will be played.


The “in” way to go from Rio to São Paulo is overland along the Costa Verde, with colonial Paraty en-route.

Latin America Memorial in Sao Paulo
Latin America Memorial in Sao Paulo

São Paulo

São Paulo, often called Brazil’s “Big Apple,” is indeed South America’s largest metropolis with a population of 20 million people who generate a third of the national GDP. São Paulo also enjoys the fringe benefits of hosting most of the nation’s finest restaurants—the beautiful Figueira Rubaiyat for one, Familia Mancini for another. When São Paulo is not about business, it’s about culture, with museum-hopping high on the list. Top of the line is the Art Museum of São Paulo (MASP) and the standout Pinacoteca do Estado. São Paulo is also a world-class city when it comes to shopping, from bargain hunting in Sunday’s Liberdade flea market to high-end boutique shopping showcasing Brazilian designers: not to miss is the Mercado Municipal, a gorgeous hall with skylights and stained glass windows.


Hotel Unique is just one of many classy hotels that include the boutique-style L’Hotel Porto Bay and the Emiliano on Avenida Paulista.


Drop in at the Botanical Gardens, with 340 species of Brazilian flora and green houses abloom with orchids and rainforest species. Leave time for the 400-acre Ibirapuera Park, a verdant oasis where, in addition to gardens and lakes, are museums, a planetarium and the Japanese Pavilion. Also, fly south to Iguazu Falls, the region’s grandest natural wonder.


The turn-of-the-century Teatro Municipal is home to both the excellent Municipal Symphony Orchestra and the city’s classical ballet company; visiting performances of high quality classical music, dance and opera are performed here. Estação Julio Prestes, a renovated train station, houses the Sala São Paulo, home to the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.


This would be the perfect year to visit the Museu do Futebol, housed within the Pacaembu Stadium: The prized exhibit is the shirt worn by Pele during the 1970 World Cup final in Mexico. Note: This year’s World Cup events will be held in the newly built Corinthians Arena.

BEST TIME TO GO: Summer in Brazil (December through March) is hot; winter months (June through September) are mild to cool and cooler, depending on latitude and altitude; in Amazonia, the dry season lasts from June to December

FUN FACT: Sure the samba was born in Brazil; however, so were other undulating dance rhythms: lambada, ferro and bossa nova

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro; and from Atlanta, Detroit and New York (JFK) to São Paulo

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport, valid for six months beyond Brazil visit; and a tourist reciprocity visa, obtained in the U.S. The visa cost is $160, valid for 10 years. For Canadians, the cost is $72

CURRENCY: Brazilian Real

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOODFeijoada, the national dish and traditionally served on Saturday, is a black bean stew, simmered for hours with meats such as sausage, beef, and pork, and served with rice, farofa (manioc flour), orange slices and stir-fried cabbage

BEST BUYS: Brazilian gem stones, leather goods, wood carvings, sports clothes, bikinis, and shoes

INFORMATION PLEASE: Embratur, Ministry of Tourism—





Sitting between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean mountains, Santiago, with its bevy of new and stylish hotels, gourmet restaurants, art sites, and fashion savvy-boutiques, is on the fast-track to becoming a sophisticated and lively capital. Essential sights include the Museum of the Pre-Columbian Arts and the Mercado Central, piled high with fresh produce and seafood.


The Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, the W Santiago and the San Cristobal Tower, and boutique entries like The Aubrey and Lastarria Hotel.


Fly south from Santiago to Chile’s Patagonia, stopping first in Punta Arenas to visit the penguin colony and feast on fresh king crab; continue overland to Torres del Paine National Park, a hiker’s wonderland of glaciers, lakes and the pointed granite peaks of the “towers” of Paine. The region is home to guanacos, ostrich-like rheas and Andean condors.


Drive west to Valparaiso, a fabulous and hilly port town whose unique urban geography and treasury of distinctive traditional houses combine to make an official UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn all about Chile’s wine culture, visit vineyards and taste the fruits of the vine aboard the Wine Train on a day’s outing from Santiago to Santa Cruz.


It’s an hour from the capital to world-class ski resorts, such as Valle Nevado and Portillo. Fly fishing is the thing to do, and rainbow and brown trout the catch in the Lake District; and while you’re in the superbly scenic area, why not go horseback riding or river rafting?


Hard to believe, but remote (2 1/2-hour, small aircraft flight from Santiago) and rustic Robinson Crusoe Island (pop. 635), now has an upscale hotel, the 15-room/suite boutique Crusoe Island Lodge.

BEST TIME TO GO: November to May; best ski months—July, August and September

FUN FACT: While Chile stretches 2,653 miles north to south, its widest point measures only 110 miles east to west

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Santiago

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport; Chile charges a reciprocity fee of $160, paid on arrival in U.S. dollars or credit card; this visa is valid for the life of the passport; for Canadians, the cost is $72

CURRENCY: Chilean Peso

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: Shell fish like razor clams, mussels, oysters, sea urchins and above all centolla (king crab). Combine just a couple of these into a creamy casserole, and you have a signature dish called chupe

BEST BUYS: Lapis lazuli jewelry, silver and copper work of the Mapuche indigenous people, alpaca woolen sweaters, shawls and ponchos, Chilean wine






Bogota North is the more upscale area of the city, offering the liveliest scenes for restaurants, classy shopping malls and the Sunday flea market.


The Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia in the Zona Rosa neighborhood, and Casa Medina in Zona G, with Harry’s Restaurant, a beef-eater’s paradise, nearby. Another great pick is the Sheraton Bogota.


One of Colombia’s most special wildlife outposts is Tayrona National Park, located on the northern Atlantic coast beyond the historic town of Santa Marta. The park embraces both rainforest (alive with 100 animal species, four sea turtle species and more than 300 bird species), and seacoast (a vibrant coral reef and mangrove system for off-beach diving and snorkeling). Fly south from Bogota to Leticia, gateway to Colombia’s Amazon experience. Everyone’s favorite among the region’s 150 mammal species is the pink dolphin; others include tapir, jaguar, manatee and otters, plus more than 500 species of birds. Activities range from kayaking, birding and wildlife watching in the Zacambu Natural Reserve and exploring Monkey Island, to Leticia and Tabatinga city tours and visiting the Yagua and Ticuna Indian villages.


Take a day trip from Bogota to the mountain town of Zipaquira whose immense Salt Cathedral is 450 ft. below ground. A longer ride will take you to the neighboring state of Boyaca and Villa de Leyva, a gem of a colonial town and well worth an overnight stay. With good reason visitors are flocking to the colonial jewel of the Caribbean coast, Cartagena, a lively, pastel-colored, fun-filled resort town. Its well-preserved, walled-in old town, and remnants of the Spanish Main’s 16th century glory days, give Cartagena a great historical richness, collectively ranked a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The Deep Blue Hotel, fabulously upgraded, brings new luxury to the idyllic Caribbean outpost of Isla Providencia.

BEST TIME TO GO: December to March, mid-June to mid-August

FUN FACT: On Sundays and holidays, Bogota offers cyclists and roller-bladers 80 miles of car-free roads and 200 miles of cycle paths

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta and New York (JFK) to Bogota

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport

CURRENCY: Colombian Peso

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: Ajiaco, a creamy chicken and potato soup, topped with corn, avocado and capers

BEST BUYS: Clothing and accessories in leather and wool, straw crafts, reproductions of pre-Columbian gold jewelry, and emeralds

INFORMATION PLEASE: Proexport Colombia—





Quito, the first city designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1978, was once the northern capital of the Inca Empire and is often called the “Florence of the Americas.” Nowadays, all eyes are on the Old City, considered the best preserved in the Americas. Tops on Quito sightseeing is a rich repository of religious and colonial architecture, such as La Compañia and San Francisco cathedrals. The Old City is now alive with artisan workshops and street entertainment, as well as a gem of a new museum, Casa del Alabado, beautifully displaying pre-Columbian treasures.


The restoration of the Old City has expanded its inventory of boutique hotels occupying historic premises, from the La Casa de la Ronda to the newest Casa Gangotena.


Cruising the Galapagos Islands rates tops in must-do experiences in the Americas, and the call of this spectacular wildland is its array of birds, reptiles, fish and plants unique to the islands. Common favorites are giant tortoises, marine iguanas and three kinds of boobies—masked, red- and blue-footed. Ecuador’s slice of Amazonia is a vast rainforest region called El Oriente, home to giant otters, wooly monkeys, river dolphins, 1,600 species of birds, and communities of indigenous peoples.


Head for the scenic highlands and the colorful weekly markets: the largest is the Saturday market in Otavalo, but others include Ambato on Mondays, Pujili on Wednesdays, and Saquisili on Thursdays. Cuenca is Ecuador’s colonial gem of a city, one whose remaining 17th century charms include blue-and-gold-domed churches and cloisters full of beautiful art. Nearby, explore the sprawling fortress of Ingapirca, Ecuador’s most important remains of the Inca Empire.


Often called “the poor man’s Galapagos,” Isla de la Plata is a day excursion from Puerto Lopez and a land habitat for sea lions, frigate birds and three species of boobies; dive in to encounter white-tipped sharks and manta rays, or come in June to early-October for whale watching.

BEST TIME TO GO: May to December in Quito and the highlands; August to November in El Oriente; more tropical Guayaquil’s coolest months are June through September

FUN FACT: Visitors to La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World monument) north of Quito and precisely on the equator, have a memorable photo op: straddle the marker and you have one foot in each hemisphere

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Quito

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport


MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: If you really want a taste of something different, traditional and tasty, order the common highland delicacy cuy (roasted guinea pig), delicious when well prepared

BEST BUYS: Fine and original handicrafts, ranging from woven ponchos, rugs and wall hangings to hand-knits, ceramics, distinctive jewelry, embroidered tablecloths, and straw goods, including the original Panama hat

INFORMATION PLEASE: Ecuador Ministry of Tourism—




Once called the “City of Kings,” Lima was the center of Spanish power in the New World in the 16th century. Fast-forward 500 years and you’ll find the historic colonial center of Plaza de Armas, restored to show off the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Presidential Palace. While Lima is no urban beauty, the capital has beautiful baroque churches such as La Merced and the Convent of San Francisco, and its museums, led by the Museo Larco, are outstanding.


The newly debuted Hilton Lima Miraflores, and in the artsy seaside Barranco district, the just-opened, classy, B Arts Boutique Hotel. And we can’t forget The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center, located in Lima’s financial and shopping district.


The call of the wild takes travelers by air from Lima to the lively river port of Iquitos, gateway to exploring Amazonia, either from comfortable eco-lodges or aboard several classy expedition boats cruising through the remote Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. From Lima and Cusco, nature lovers flock to the Tambopata Nature Reserve and the Manu Biological Reserve, southeastern rainforest areas that protect incredible wildlife.


The Incas, the last of the pre-Columbian civilizations, made their kingdom’s capital in the Andean city Cusco, destroyed in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistadors, who then built churches—El Catedral, La Merced Convent and La Compañia—on Inca temple fortifications. Cusco is a gold-mine of sightseeing wonders, artisan boutiques, and a host of upscale hotels occupying historic buildings. From Cusco, it’s a scenic rail ride to everyone’s wish list destination, Machu Picchu, the breathtaking “Lost City of the Incas.” Of course, there’s always the option of an Inca Trail Trek (three to five days) to approach this iconic site on foot.


Sky-high and sacred, Lake Titicaca offers travelers accommodations with the islanders on Islas Amantani and Taquile.

BEST TIME TO GO: May to November, the dry season; in the rainforest areas, June-October

FUN FACT: Peru’s greatest contribution to the world is probably the potato. All modern varieties—roughly 5,000—can be traced to a single species first domesticated in the southern Andes around 10,000 years ago

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Lima

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport


MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: Fashioned in the Andes, novoandina cuisine combines modern “techniques” with traditional raw materials of Andean dishes. Try quinotto, the national version of the typical Italian risotto, eaten with chicken, prawns or shellfish

BEST BUYS: Paintings by local artists, silver and jade jewelry, hand-woven textiles, alpaca wool clothing (sweaters, ponchos, capes, slippers), Cusceno mirrors





Los Roques Islands.
Los Roques Islands.


When visiting Caracas, there are many things to see, including several fine museums: Casa Natal, home of the great liberator Simon Bolivar; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, where Henry Moore and Fernando Botero share space with Matisse and native son Jesus Soto; and the Museo de Bellas Artes, with exhibitions from Egypt and China to contemporary Cubism.


While business travelers have to make themselves at home in Caracas—JW Marriott Caracas seems to be a favorite—leisure travelers often by-pass Caracas and on arrival, stay seaside and near the airport—Hotel Ole Caribe is one choice—ready to head out from there to explore different corners of the country.


Angel Falls, Venezuela’s world-class natural wonder, is the highest falls (3,312 ft.) in the world. Visitors get the most dramatic view of the falls aboard special light aircraft overflights, or staying in Canaima National Park, reach the base of the world’s longest single water drop by boat and on foot (in the wet season). Los Llanos, the vast flood plains of the Orinoco River, is where you’ll find that capybaras, puma, anaconda, toucans, scarlet ibis, hyacinth macaws and parakeets abound. Visit Henri Pittier National Park, established in 1937 and the oldest in the country, and train your binoculars on hummingbirds, herons, tanagers, toucanets, curassows—actually 587 species of birds in total, including seven different eagles (September and October are the best birding months).


For snorkeling, diving, sailing and fishing, head to the idyllic archipelago of Los Roques, the Caribbean’s largest marine national park, located 80 miles off the coast and a 30-minute flight from Caracas. Margarita Island, the country’s leading resort destination, has particular appeal for wind- and kite-surfers who head for Playa El Yaque, while Playa Guacuco and even better Playa Parguito are tops on the island for surfing.


Merida, the adventure sports—hiking and trekking, paragliding, canyoning, rafting and mountain biking—capital of Venezuela, is particularly famous for its ice cream, served up at Heladeria, holding the Guinness Book of World Records title for highest number (about 70) of ice cream flavors.

BEST TIME TO GO: November-December, April-May; June-October for Angel Falls

FUN FACT: Among the many Carnavals held in Venezuela, the most colorful is in Carupano in Anzoategui State: gateway Puerto La Cruz

GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Caracas

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport for six months from entry date

CURRENCY: Bolivar (dollars will not be exchanged at hotels)

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: The national snack is the arepa, made of corn bread stuffed with anything from shredded beef to chicken and guacamole

BEST BUYS: Wooden bowls, baskets, locally made hammocks, papier-mache devil masks

INFORMATION PLEASE: Venezuela Convention & Visitors Bureau—