South America experienced a 10 percent jump in the numbers of tourist arrivals from 2010 to 2011, the largest increase for all "sub-regions" on the planet, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Brazil reaped the largest benefits from this phenomenon, with a 32 percent increase in tourism revenues during that same time period. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro will only further the world's growing enchantment about a continent that offers everything from ice-capped mountains, deserts, and jungles.
Whether you're planning a backpacking expedition or a stay in one of the continent's historic cities, there are some logistical issues that must be tended to beforehand. Then you can enjoy all the continent has to offer with minimal hassle.
Photo of Machu Picchu by Flickr user szeke
Prepare For Takeoff
We'll assume you already have a passport or have applied for one. The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends all travelers to South America get vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and malaria, well before departure. If you are going to be hiking, backpacking, and/or camping, take a non-aerosol insect-repellent that contains N-diethylmetatoluamide (DEET). Your luggage should be light and tight. Airport personnel will sling it around when traveling between countries, so its best not to take your $1,000 Louis Vuitton suitcase.
Always carry toilet paper with you. Most restrooms, regardless of country, do not provide it for you. There are Internet cafes all over the continent, so its best to use them instead of bringing your own laptop (to avoid potential damage or theft). If you're going to be on the continent for a while, a prepaid satellite phone plan can keep you in touch with people no matter how deep in the mountains you are. It also wouldn't hurt to know a little Spanish (Portuguese if Brazil is your only destination), and keep up to date on monetary exchange rates.
Machu Picchu, Peru
The 15th century Inca citadel, along with numerous other limestone and granite structures that make up the small city, are just a few of the reasons Machu Picchu is Peru's most visited site today. It is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World after the Peruvian Ministry of Commerce and Tourism led a worldwide campaign for its recognition as such. You can reach the historic monument by train via Cusco, but the true adventurer will take the multi-day hike through the Andes to reach it.
Quito, to this day, is still one of the least altered Incan cities but still offers modern conveniences for travelers. The city is situated between two mountain ranges at an altitude of about 9,200 feet. The city's official name is San Francisco de Quito, named after the must-see 16th century church named for Saint Francis. You should also visit the Botanical Gardens on your own leisure or take a guided tour.
There isn't enough space in this article to cover all that you should visit in South America's largest country. But Foz do Iguacu, a World Heritage-designated park, lies on the border of Brazil and Argentina. It features nearly 300 waterfalls and exotic wildlife including wild giant anteaters to jaguars. There are beaches up and down the entire coast of Brazil, but if you can reach Buzios before you depart, you're doing yourself a favor. There is a little something for everybody here, including snorklers, surfers, and those who simply just club hopping.