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15 Must-See Places in South America

 There's no denying that South America is a continent laden with superlatives, and that will be more evident to you than ever before once you read through this list and learn about some of the stunning places this continent is home to. From lost ancient cities to the very trendiest in cosmopolitan flair, these are 15 must-visit places in South America. Let's jump right in:
 
15. Quito (Ecuador)
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Quito is the highest capital city in the world, excluding Bolivia's La Paz, which isn't legally that country's capital anyway. It was founded by the Spanish in 1534, and its colorful old town is one of the best-preserved, most unchanged and largest in all of the Americas. It's also the only world capital that lives with the existential threat of volcanoes. 
14. Colca Canyon (Peru)
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This canyon is twice the depth of the much more famous Grand Canyon in the USA. It's one of the most visited tourist attractions in Peru, and it's pretty easy to see why. In addition to the stunning landscapes, you'll also be able to see Andean condors flying overhead, as well as the biggest species of hummingbird you'll ever see. 
13. Atacama Desert (Chile)
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This is the driest place in the world - it only rains here once every four years. Stretching for 1,000 miles along the Chilean coast, the desert's landscape looks more like somewhere on Mars than somewhere here on Earth. In fact, it has stood in for Mars in various movies such as Space Odyssey and Voyage to the Planets.
12. Angel Falls (Venezuela)
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Nestled deep in the Guayana Highlands of Venezuela, Angel Falls is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the entire world. Water cascades some 3,200 feet over Auyantepu Mountain into the Rio Kerepacupai Meru. American pilot Jimmy Angel was the very first man to fly over the Falls back in 1937, and that's where it gets its name from.  
11. Cusco (Peru)
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The colorful city of Cusco is situated 11,000 feet in the Andes Mountains, and was once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire. The Spanish conquered it in the 16th Century, and they pretty much decimated the native population, although many Inca remains can be found in the vicinity of the city. Cusco is considered the historical capital of Peru. 
10. Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
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The world's largest salt flat is located high in the Andes mountain range at an altitude of 12,000 feet. One of its most interesting features is that the briny surface turns reflective after (admittedly very rare) rainfall. The salt flat is also a major breeding ground for flamingos. 
9. Lake Titicaca (Peru & Bolivia)
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Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America, and straddles the border between Bolivia and Peru. It's also the highest navigable lake in the world, and this is due to the altitude at which it lies - over 12,500 feet. There are 41 islands within the lake, many of which are inhabited. The natives even make floating islands from heavy seeds. There are also 500 species of aquatic life in the lake. 
 
8. Easter Island (Chile)
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Although it's definitely a trek to get there, with the nearest land mass being some 1,300 miles away, a visit to Easter Island will be worth it. The island is dotted with over 900 moai, which are enormous stone statues carved by the island's early Polynesian inhabitants. They are thought to be 1,000 years old. 
7. Amazon Rainforest
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Often referred to as the lungs of the Earth, the Amazon rainforest is home to some 390 BILLION trees. It is the world's largest tropical rainforest by some margin, and it is by far and away the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the entire world. Some 60% of the entire rainforest's area is located in Brazil, with sizable chunks found in Peru and Columbia.  
6. Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)
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Despite its remote location in Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park is one of the largest and most visited parks in South America. The sparkling blue lake you see in the image above you is one of the park's main attractions, as are the three mountain peaks that you can see off in the distance. The park is also home to a species of endangered deer. 
5. Buenos Aires (Argentina)
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A sprawling metropolis of 17 million people, Argentinean capital Buenos Aires is the most visited city in South America. Many who visit say that it feels distinctly European and highly cosmopolitan. It is noteworthy for its beautiful architecture and rich cultural life. If you visit, be sure to visit the Recolate, a residential neighborhood known for its colorful history.
4. Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
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The Galapagos Islands are a treasure to ecologists, and this is because the ecosystem there is completely unique. Some of the most easily-recognizable inhabitants are a spiny species of iguana, called the marine iguana, and the giant tortoise, which is endangered. The Galapagos archipelago consists of 18 major islands, and lies 550 miles off the Ecuadorian coast.  
3. Iguazu Falls (Brazil & Argentina)
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The mighty Iguazu Falls consists of some 275 separate waterfalls. In fact, its name translates into English as "big water" - highly appropriate for the largest waterfall system on the face of the earth. Of all the individuals falls making up the whole, Devil's Throat is the largest single waterfall. Though much of the Iguazu River flows through Brazil, most of the waterfalls themselves are geographically in Argentina.
2. Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
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When you think of Rio, you think of enormous, beautiful mountains juxtaposed against the blue sea below. You think of Copacabana beach stretching for miles along the coast, and you also think of the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer watching over the inhabitants of what many believe to be the most beautiful city in the world. Carnival, the samba, soccer... what's not to love? 
1. Machu Picchu (Peru)
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Nestled high in the Peruvian Andres, the Incan settlement of Macchu Picchu was thought to have remained undiscovered by the Conquistadors when they came to South America. It was fortress, a palace and a site of deep religious significance for the Incas. It's easy to see why it's the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. 

Content and image source: Touropia
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