Kiwi.com has cheap, last-minute flights to top cities across South America. Here’s our guide to a few of the best deals and escapes available right now!
Some of Kiwi.com’s most popular routes are within South America, and no wonder — it’s home to some of the world’s greatest cities and most spectacular sights. Here’s a small selection of the places you can visit when you book with Kiwi.com.
Lima is big. That’s the first thing to know. Despite its geographical limitations (the western part of the city runs along the Pacific coast — what it can’t do in expanding westwards it makes up for in crawling outwards north and south), it’s home to a third of Peru’s population, living in 43 different districts.
One of the most important cities in the history of South America, it was founded in 1535 by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. All this history makes for a rich cultural experience with grand palaces, huge squares, venerable churches, and some of the continent’s finest museums.
When you’re done with poking politely around the cultural stuff, there’s a whole other side to Lima. Being on the Pacific coast, ocean lovers can surf, swim or paraglide, and even if you don’t fancy getting wet there are clifftop walks and bike rides in the refreshing ocean air. All of the exercise means, of course, you’re ready for some traditional Peruvian cuisine, deliciousness served everywhere from street vendors to high-end restaurants.
In many peoples’ minds, the first image they have of Brazil is Rio de Janeiro: vast beaches, parties, green hills and so forth, so maybe they’ve lumped São Paulo in as just another big, confusing South American city. This it is, and it’s all the better for it.
Initially, São Paulo seems intimidating, all concrete, glass and noise, a bit rough around the edges maybe. This is all also true, but the reason for that is the sheer variety of things on offer. It’s one of the most culturally diverse cities in Brazil (and that’s saying something!) meaning there’s art, music, food, nightlife, fashion and more from every corner of the globe. The parks offer a bit of calm amongst the madness, and if you still want beaches, well it has those too: head north from the port of Santos for some Rio-esque frolicking, or south to the small coastal towns for more unspoiled coastline. Whatever you’re looking for in Brazil, São Paulo is that multiplied by a hundred.
Next up is Colombia’s capital and biggest city (and consistently one of our most popular South American destinations for travelers using Kiwi.com). If you’re traveling through Colombia, it’s almost inevitable you’ll end up in Bogotá at some point, and it’s a city that divides opinion like few others on the continent. Some people cite the traffic, the weather, and the tightly-packed streets as reasons not to stay; others adore its colonial architecture, its manic nightlife, lively arts scene and pleasingly walkable city center.
It can be overwhelming, that much is true, but there are oases of loveliness amongst the noise and bustle. From Plaza de Bolívar and stretches north to Avenida Jiménez de Quesada you’ll find La Candelaria, for example, the city’s historic center, a series of narrow streets with pastel-colored buildings and views to the mountains beyond. It’s virtually a different planet to other parts of the city, let alone other cities in South America.
Those mountains, despite bringing the rain and cloud, are also worth exploring. Funiculars, cable cars or hiking trails will get you high amongst the trees, and the National Parks are popular with travelers and locals alike.
Once a byword for everything that could possibly go wrong with a place, the Colombian city of Medellín is now one of the continent’s top destinations. The City of Eternal Spring sits up in the mountains, giving it beautiful weather all year round, and over the last twenty years has probably done more than any other city in the world to reinvent itself.
A modern public transport system consisting of a Metro and cable cars connects the hills and barrios that stretch along the Medellín River valley, and the city is packed with parks and gardens as well as excellent museums, public squares where festivals and cultural events take place. It’s also a city of innovation: take Arvi Park, for example, an eco-tourism reserve for walking and cycling, with a Sunday farmers’ market; or Barefoot Park where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and socks and wiggle and squelch through sand, mud, grass, and pebbles before washing it all off in pools of fresh water. Medellín today is modern, friendly, and forward-looking.
Cusco is a popular base for exploring Machu Picchu, and it serves as a wonderful introduction to Andean culture. Once the capital of the Incan Empire, there are ruins from that era dotted throughout the city and the surrounding hills, as well as the colonial treasures built around and — in some cases — on top of the marks left by the previous civilization.
It’s a popular spot with tourists for obvious reasons: aside from the previously-mentioned Machu Picchu connection, the city’s Incan architecture was so solidly made that much of it still stands today. The local people take immense pride in this, so as you explore darkened alleyways one minute, the next you could burst out into bright sunlight on a square filled with dancers and musicians from the surrounding villages celebrating Andean culture at its most vibrant.
Plaza de Armas is where you’ll probably find yourself first, a vast square with pre-Columbian, colonial, and modern history together in a pleasing mish-mash. Where else can you drink in a modern cocktail bar on the site of ancient Incan rituals? Elsewhere, San Blas, the artists’ neighborhood, is all whitewashed houses and workshops, while the number of local markets, festivals and trips to local archaeological sites will keep you entertained for days, if not weeks.
Finally, when it comes to the finest ancient cities on the continent, we leave Cusco and travel to Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Its Unesco-protected Old Town is one of the jewels of South America, with cobbled streets passing along walls and under balconies covered in flowers, alleys meandering this way and that, and vast, imposing churches in leafy squares.
It’s fascinating to see a city that’s so laid-back today show a little bit of the nasty side of its history, however. Cartagena was important, there’s no doubt about that, and both the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (the largest fortress built by the Spanish in any of its colonies anywhere) and the fascinatingly grisly Palace of the Inquisition show that this was a place that meant business.
Now, happily, there’s little else to do but stroll the Old Town both day and night, or visit the many, many beaches. The nearby Bocagrande beach is mere minutes from the city, while Playa Blanca on a peninsula to the south of the city is all white sand and beach bars. The nearby islands are also absolute paradise, all of them comfortably reachable by boat, and all of them places you’ll never want to leave.
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