With over 300 national parks in South America, there is no shortage of beautiful landscapes to explore. From imposing waterfalls plunging into deep jungle canyons to gigantic glacial mountains, this continent offers incredible diversity when it comes to the great outdoors. With that much variety at the tip of your fingers, it may be stressful deciding where to go.
Luckily, we’ve selected the top seven most breathtaking national parks in South America to help you narrow it down! Choose your favorite and enjoy a week-long excursion in the wild, or add all of them to your bucket list for an unbeatable vacation experience. Immerse yourself in the organic beauty of South America at any one of these unique destinations.
– Unwind in the Paradise of Parque Tayrona
Along the northern Caribbean coastline of Colombia is the oasis known as Parque Tayrona. Here, the white sand beaches and turquoise waters neighbor a dense jungle full of tropical flora and fauna. After a jungle hike to the coast, visitors can expect to find total relaxation while sunbathing in one of the many bays or coves lining the park.
You can also choose to spend some time underwater with a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion through the sea. Not every beach is suitable for swimming, so if you want to get in the water a guided tour is your best option!
Hiking is unavoidable in Parque Tayrona, but not every walk is going to be a treacherous uphill feat of strength. Travelers who just want to unwind on the sandy shores can do so, but those who love a little exercise on vacation have some unbeatable trails here. Trails like the 9 Piedras Hike are a great way to see the jungle, get panoramic ocean views, and spot a few indigenous artifacts throughout the trail.
– Meet the Unusual Wildlife of Galapagos National Park
Science lovers may already have the Galapagos National Park on their bucket list, as this is one of the world’s most phenomenal natural wonders. Isolated in the South Pacific Ocean, about 97% of the Galapagos Islands are included in the national park border. Unique does not even begin to describe this untamed land.
Cacti forests, lava ruins, dense greenery, and abundant wildlife are only a few of the reasons Charles Darwin himself saw this as one of the most curious places on Earth. Life here has evolved and formed its own fascinating appearance, which you’ll get to explore during your visit!
Wildlife observation is absolutely essential if you visit the Galapagos National Park. Popular species include the giant Galapagos tortoise, iguanas, haws, penguins, and even hammerhead sharks. The best way to see it all is with a private, guided tour of the park, which allows you to see the picturesque islands while spotting some friendly little locals. Visitors can also spend time at the conservation and research center to get a biology lesson, and learn how the region’s wildlife is being protected.
– Venture Through the Volcanic Wonderland of Cotopaxi National Park
Located just 30 miles outside of Quito, Ecuador is one of the most majestic national parks in South America. Known for its impressive views of the Cotopaxi volcano, this is among our favorite destinations for hikers of all levels.
The 90-minute walk around Lagune Limpiopungo is great for spotting local hummingbirds and Andean gulls along the trail. You may even see a few wild horses grazing the fields as you complete this trek!
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, summiting Cotopaxi is an adrenaline-pumping experience. After all, this is still an active volcano, so there will be times the trail is not even open due to increased activity. But with the correct planning and an expert guide, athletic travelers can brave the strenuous trek and reach the top for unparalleled views of the world below. For less experienced hikers who still want to cross “climbing a volcano” off their bucket list, you can hike to the refuge which stands 4,800 meters (almost 15,800 feet) above sea level.
– See the Best of Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park
Visiting this official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve offers travelers a truly remarkable, breathtaking vacation in Patagonia. There are few words that describe the beauty of Patagonia accurately, but when you visit Torres del Paine you will understand why people travel from around the world to see this region.
Crystal blue lakes, impressive icebergs, and mountains that reach the heavens are only a few remarkable sites you’ll see in this one park. There are plenty of ways to see adventure through this park, from kayaking to horseback tours, mountain biking, and even puma-tracking! Torres del Paine is one of the best national parks in South America for travelers who want to spend their entire vacation in the wild.
And that doesn’t have to mean roughing it. Luxury accommodations like the Las Torres Reserve are a fantastic way to be immersed in nature while enjoying a romantic, upscale getaway.
– Spectacular Sites Await in Iguazu National Park
Thousands of gallons of water bend and flow across Argentina before entering the Iguaza National Park, decorated with more than 250 waterfalls you have to see to believe. This official UNESCO World Heritage Site is a subtropical wonderland, one that has been forming for over 200 million years.
The Iguazu Falls are a result of a massive volcanic eruption that created a deep, jagged crater in the earth. Over time, nature found a way to take over this region and created a lush jungle populated with birds, monkeys, fish, jaguars, turtles, and more. Travelers can enjoy several different trails throughout the park, though the number one activity here is visiting the Devil’s Throat.
Spanning across the border of Argentina and Brazil, Devil’s Throat plunges about 80 meters (262 feet!) into a large pool covered by the misty cloud of spray caused by the powerful horseshoe-shaped waterfall. This site is one of the world’s best waterfall experiences, and cannot be missed while visiting Iguaza.
– Trek the Unbelievable Mountains in Tunari National Park
Across central Bolivia, there is an unknown mountain range trekkers and nature lovers can enjoy away from the hectic tourist populations that typically flock towards the Andes. Tunari National Park is home to the Tunari mountain range, which stretches across 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 sq mi) of land.
Most travelers visiting this park spend their time hiking up Cerro Tunari, the park’s namesake mountains with one of the parks highest peaks. Views from the top are unreal, with endless shadowy mountains stretching to the horizon. Several different trails are available depending on how long you want to spend on the trek, ranging from 3 miles to 13 miles of impressive ascents.
The nearby town, Cochabamba, is a perfect place to refuel and recharge after your hike, located just south of Cerro Tunari. As one of the culinary capitals of Bolivia, you’ll be treated to some amazing nourishment after the intense climb.
– Travel Back In Time While Visiting Manu National Park
Have you ever wondered what Earth might have been like before humans evolved into such a dominant species? If so, a trip to Manu National Park is the perfect adventure for you! This Peruvian paradise is one of the world’s most biodiverse destinations globally, which is one reason it earned a spot on the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Located deep in the Amazon, Manu is full of unexplored wild forests and home to completely isolated indigenous cultures that make this park unlike any other. Visiting without an organized, private tour is virtually impossible, so this is one spot Kuoda can certainly help you out with! We’ll find the absolute best tour guide in Peru to take you on an adventure through Manu.
Prepare for wildlife spotting, cultural immersion, boating through the Amazon, and an endless supply of awe-inspiring moments in nature seeing some of the Earth’s oldest living flora and fauna. Manu National Park is ideal for those who are curious about where we come from and learning how our planet came to be.
– Visit the Best National Parks in South America with Kuoda
Planning your outdoor adventure with an expert Kuoda travel designer is the best way to ensure you find the perfect national park to explore. While these top seven destinations offer some of the most miraculous sights, you can find fun, beautiful locations in every corner of the continent!
Talk to a Kuoda expert today and let us know what your dream vacation to South America looks like. We’ll take all your travel wishes and hopes and turn them into a perfectly planned itinerary!