With all the daily decisions humans face, choosing the best place to get away from it all is as important a choice as any. Once someone decides on South America, they have to select from the twelve countries. Though each is unique and beautiful, little things can make one place preferable over another depending on what a traveler hopes to find during their adventures. These are the best countries for newcomers to South America and a round-up of what visitors need to check out during their stay.

8 Chile

Chile is a narrow stretch of land along South America's Western border, and it's known for its diverse natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and superb wines and beers. Must-sees in Chile include:

  • Valparaíso:  Filled with colorful, historic buildings, the charming bohemian town along the Pacific Ocean was the home of the famous poet Pablo Neruda.
  • Marble Caves: 6,000-year-old caves carved by crashing waves feature breathtaking swirls of blues, greens, purples, and grays in Southern Chile's Lake General Carrera.
  • Atacama Desert:  The visually striking harsh desert landscape is one of the hottest on the planet and has been used to simulate Mars exploration due to its otherworldly terrain.

7 Ecuador

Ecuador straddles the equator and is known for its exotic wildlife, stunning coastline, and ancient Incan history. Sites in Ecuador were among the first designated as UNESCO world heritage sites, and parts of the country include the Amazon Rainforest. These are just a few of the sights travelers should see:

  • Quito:  The Ecuadorian capital is one of the highest cities in the world and features a well-preserved historic center, a 22-acre rose plantation, and the Mindo Cloud Forest, home to rare orchids and cascading waterfalls.
  • Cotopaxi National Park:  The park contains a snow-capped active volcano standing almost 8,000 feet tall, herds of majestic wild horses, and seemingly endless fields of breathtaking wildflowers.
  • Galápagos Islands: Tourists to the unforgettable islands off the coast of Ecuador can come face-to-face with giant tortoises, colorful iguanas, rare species of birds, and hammerhead sharks (only if they want to!)

Related: 25 Images From The Amazon Rainforest Not For The Faint Of Heart

6 Costa Rica

Costa Rica has long been a destination for wanderers seeking a lush, jungle paradise ripe with adventure. Water lovers will flock to the pristine beaches, while adventurers will find their happy places in the magical national parks. These are some top picks for visitors to Costa Rica:

  • Corcovado National Park:  Miles of trails take hikers through the misty rainforests, where the sights and sounds of the jungle will overtake their senses. Visitors can expect to spot colorful macaws, monkeys, anteaters, and the occasional jaguar!
  • San José:  The capital city is the ideal basecamp for travelers who itch for an authentic, culture-filled experience.  San José offers an abundance of delicious cuisine, centuries-old architecture, and museums dedicated to telling the story of the country.
  • Arenal Volcano National Park:  Adrenaline junkies will be surrounded by a sea of green as they zipline through the trees and traverse daunting bridges hanging high above the forest floor. The park features its namesake active volcano, often shrouded in an eerie fog.

5 Paraguay

Visitors to Paraguay will enjoy a more budget-friendly adventure since the country has not experienced the boom in tourism as its more popular neighbors. Less mainstream does not mean less impressive, though. Some highlights of Paraguay include:

  • Saltos del Monday: On sunny days, rainbows abound at the series of waterfalls in the city of Presidente Franco. The thunderous waters underscore the magnificent power of nature.
  • Areguá:  The rich Spanish history of Paraguay is on full display in the charming colonial town with cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, and stunning churches. Visitors can soak up culture by walking through the streets or soak up the sun on popular beaches.
  • Tereré plantations:  Paraguay is famous for its signature drink,  tereré , more commonly known as yerba mate. People can head to Bella Vista to tour the historic plantations and sip on the fresh tea known for its energy-boosting properties.

Related: Epic Countries Around The World That Are Completely Budget-Friendly

4 Uruguay

Uruguay is known for its friendly locals and safe environment. There is no shortage of natural scenery to explore, but visitors might have difficulty leaving the beautiful towns. These are a few of the best attractions in Uruguay:

  • Colonia del Sacramento: This charming, seaside UNESCO world heritage city contains cobblestone streets lined with historical buildings from its Portuguese past. It's a primo spot to lose track of time admiring vintage cars and picturesque palms.
  • Arapey:  Visitors can soak up the healing properties of geothermal hot springs at the popular resort in Uruguay.
  • Montevido:  The capital city gets its flair from many cultures, including African and European. The Port Market is ideal for getting a taste of mouthwatering local cuisine, and the mix of colonial and neoclassical architecture is sure to impress.

3 Bolivia

Much of Bolivia's natural scenery has been untouched, and there are plenty of jaw-dropping landscapes to discover. The remote South American country also offers a unique mix of cultures. Some top spots in Bolivia include:

  • Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde:  These two lakes give visitors plenty to ponder. Laguna Colorada's rose-tinted waters attract flocks of flamingos, and a volcanic mountain reflects off the green-hued Laguna Verde.
  • Tiwanaku:  The ruins of an ancient pre-Incan village lie high in the Andes Mountains. Visitors will undoubtedly leave Tiwanaku impressed by the monoliths, pyramid, and volcanic rock structures. 
  • Salar De Uni:  When a prehistoric lake dried up, it left behind an expansive, bright white salt flat that stretches for thousands of miles. After a rain, visitors marvel at the perfect reflection of the sky in the water.

2 Peru

Peru is an excellent destination for history buffs and nature enthusiasts alike. The blend of ancient and modern, all with a gorgeous natural backdrop, combine to create a memorable South American vacation. A few of the many spots to check out are:

  • Vinicunca: Located in the Andes Mountains, the colorful lines of the Rainbow Mountains look as though a surrealist painter dreamed them up. A major perk is the llamas or alpacas that often accompany visitors on their treks.
  • Machu Pichu: Tourists can challenge themselves to conquer the multi-day hike along the Inca Trail to experience the sacred site of a 15th-century Incan citadel on foot or opt for a bus ride that takes them to the gates of the site.
  • Cusco:  The entire city of Cusco feels like a museum, many structures using Incan ruins to build a unique site dedicated to preserving its long history, including the must-see Roman Catholic church of Santo Domingo.

1 Argentina

Many digital nomads settle for a while in Argentina. Both the cityscapes and scenery provide the kind of bliss that makes working much easier. Tourists might have a hard time leaving after checking out these notable places:

  • Buenos Aires:  The bustling capital of Argentina features colorful 19th-century buildings like the pink-toned presidential palace, Casa Rosada. The village of Caminito is alive with tango dancers and vibrant restaurants and shops.
  • Los Glaciares National Park: In the heart of Patagonia lies an abundance of backcountry trails ready to be explored by eager adventurers. Treks include sights of glaciers and jagged, snow-covered mountains.
  • Ushuaia:  Nicknamed "The End of The World," the southernmost village in South America, hugged by mountains on one side and ocean on the other, attracts as much marine life as it does tourists.

Next: 20 Mythical Sites So Legendary They're Worth Planning A Trip To South America