Although South America is home to just 12 countries, as well as some overseas territories, the rich diversity makes it feel as though you are traveling through hundreds of lands. From glorious beaches and soaring mountains to lush rainforests and cultural sites aplenty, there’s plenty to enjoy in South America.
With well-maintained roads in most major areas, it’s a great country for exploring by motorbike. As with any biking road trip, though, you should only consider traveling around South America by motorbike if you are an experienced, competent and confident rider.
Fill the fuel tank, strap on your helmet and rev the engine … here are some of the most awesome places to enjoy in South America:
1. Santiago, Chile
Chile’s sultry capital, Santiago offers a wealth of terrific things to see and do. Admire the architecture around Plaza de Armas, see the Metropolitan Cathedral and dine on local fare and watch local life at Mercado Central. Hike up to Cerro San Cristobal in Parque Metropolitano. Reserve your spot on a free tour of La Moneda Palace. Soak up the views from Sky Costanera.
Santiago’s prime position between the mountains and the coast mean that you can easily ride out to either. Whether you fancy sunbathing and relaxing or hiking and climbing, all is within easy reach. You may also want to tour the local vineyards and wineries.
2. Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert in Chile is a remote and barren wilderness on a plateau between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. One of the driest places in the world, you can marvel at the coppery colored ravines, soaring volcanoes and dazzling white salt pan.
Try your hand at sand boarding in the ominously named Death Valley, watch the sun go down in glory over Valle de la Luna and be in awe at nighttime as you stargaze at the Milky Way. Enjoy the geothermal wonderland at El Tatio geysers and float in the salty Cejar Lagoon. The 36-foot-tall sculpture of Mano del Desierto is a top sight.
3. Puyehue Volcanic National Park, Chile
Ride along Chile Route 215 and enjoy the scenic beauty of Puyehue Volcanic National Park. Situated within the Andes, the beautiful national park boasts verdant forests, an abundance of flora and fauna, mist-surrounded volcanoes and hot springs.
4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Learn to tango, drink plenty of wine and have your fill of prime steak in Argentina’s lively capital of Buenos Aires. Football is huge in the city and you go as part of an organized group trip for a less chaotic experience. Enjoy the cultural ambience by day and the vibrant nightlife in La Boca, relax in Palermo and admire the abundance of striking street art all around the city.
5. Quebrada de Humahuaca, Argentina
The UNESCO-listed Quebrada de Humahuaca is a narrow mountain pass in Argentina’s province of Jujuy. Stretching for around 95 miles, it’s an excellent place to hit the open road and soak up the splendors all around.
The jagged multi-colored rocks cannot fail to impress. Reds, oranges, yellows, browns, whites and other shades look almost as though they have been painted on the uneven edges.
Small villages and towns offer rustic places to stay for the night, local eateries and handicrafts galore.
6. Asuncion, Paraguay
Many travelers choose to skip Asuncion, which is both a shame for them and a blessing for those who do make the trip. You can enjoy Paraguay’s capital city in relative peace, away from the tourist crowds. Colonial architecture, leafy plazas and a trendy nightlife make Asuncion a very likeable South American capital.
7. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The biggest salt flat on the planet, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is a place that has to be seen to be believed. With nothing stretching for as far as the eye can see, it’s known for being a fantastic place to take interesting photographs. You can also visit the salt mining area.
There are several interesting lakes in the locale too, such as Laguna Hedionda with its resident flamingos, the red-tinged Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde, which takes on a green hue in windy conditions. Hot springs and geysers make for other great stops in the area.
8. Death Road, Bolivia
Despite its terrifying name and its notorious reputation, many tourists flock to conquer Bolivia’s Death Road every year. While many choose to mountain bike along the “world’s most dangerous road”, you can also enjoy the thrill on your motorbike. Just, take it easy!
Stretching for 40 miles and featuring sheer drops, narrow sections and sharp curves, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. Riding through the clouds with the green of the rainforest all around you and, of course, the bragging rights, might just be enough to make you want to add this to your bucket list.
9. Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, each side of the falls offers a completely different view. If you have the time, it’s well worth crossing the border from whichever country you first see the falls to enjoy the vistas from a different perspective too.
The biggest waterfall system across the globe, many smaller falls are formed by the islands that lie along the edge of the main falls. Stretching for more than one and a half miles and taking roughly the form of the letter J, the waterfalls are one of the most splendid natural sights in all of South America.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Perhaps Brazil’s most iconic destination, Brazil attracts a diverse crowd all throughout the year. Although many travelers dream of experiencing the city’s energy during the annual carnival, there is plenty to see and do at any time of the year.
Bask on sandy beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema and replenish your energy after lots of riding. Take the train up Corcovado and stand at the feet of Cristo Redentor while admiring the sweeping views of the city below. Travel to the top of the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain for more great views. Football fans should visit the large Maracana Stadium.
11. Salvador, Brazil
Brazil’s Salvador has a quaint old town and a pulsating music scene. Ride the 1,200 miles from Jiricoacoara along some of Brazil’s finest coastline to make your journey even more memorable. The route passes through Recife and Fortaleza, and there are heaps of stunning beaches to chill out for a few days here and there en route.
12. Manaus, Brazil
In the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, Manaus is a great base from which to enjoy the country’s natural wonders. Book a range of jungle trips to suit varied budgets and discover the enchanting jewel, complete with wildlife, native villages, waterways and adventures aplenty.
13. Machu Picchu, Peru
One of Peru’s most visited destinations, the magnificent “Lost City of the Incas” is a sight to behold. Whether you reach Macu Picchu by road or after a multi-day trek along the Inca Trail, the ruined city is sure to impress.
Wander around the terraces, see the Intihuatana stone, climb up to the Sun Gate and discover all the nooks and crannies of this once-sacred spot.
14. Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest lake. Take boat trips on the glistening waters and discover the small floating islands that dot the water’s surface.
A brilliant ride to Lake Titicaca starts at the charming colonial city of Arequipa. You’ll see plenty of volcanic features alongside the road as you make your way to Puno, the main city near Lake Titicaca.
15. Colca Canyon, Peru
Keep your eyes peeled for mighty condors soaring over the gaping depths of Peru’s Colca Canyon. The unique scenery is filled with interesting wildlife, including wild herds of llama-like vicunas. The birdlife is also incredible.
Trekking, camping and bathing in thermal springs are among the activities you can enjoy around Colca Canyon.
16. Quito, Ecuador
Often said to be one of the best-preserved colonial capitals in the whole of South America, Quito is well worth taking a few days to explore.
There are numerous beautiful churches to visit. The insides of the Church of San Francisco and Compania de Jesus Quito are particularly impressive. Myriad museums cater to varying interests and a highlight for many is standing with one foot either side of the equator.
Take a stroll through Independence Plaza, enjoy the views from the TeleferiQo and take a ride out to Cotopaxi National Park, known for its snow-capped peaks.
17. River of Five Colors, Colombia
Officially named Cano Cristales, the River of Five Colors is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Colombia. As the name suggests, the river features water of different shades. Blues, greens, reds, blacks and yellows can be seen, caused by algae, plants, rocks and sand in the water.
Explore the caverns, admire the waterfalls and enjoy refreshing swims in the inviting pools. There are no fish or other creatures in the river.
Located in Colombia’s Serranía de la Macarena mountain range, the best time to see the river in its full colorful glory is beteen July and November.
18. Santuario de las Lajas, Colombia
Santuario de las Lajas presents an arresting sight. Located near Ipiales in the southern part of the country, the large Gothic Revival Church was built in a gaping canyon.
Steped in legend and built on the back of a miracle, the Catholic church is stunning both inside and out. There’s a pretty waterfall close by too, and the surrounding natural scenery is picturesque.
19. Coffee Triangle, Colombia
A lush area of bright greenery, Colombia’s Coffee Triangle encompasses the cities of Armenia, Manizales and Pereira.
There are several cool attractions in the area, as well as splendid driving routes at the heart of nature. Do try some of the local coffee too; the coffee produced here is said to be some of the finest in the world.
Visit the quirky coffee-themed attraction parks, such as the Museum of Culture Coffee and the Colombian National Coffee Park, and peace out in diverse botanical gardens. If you’re looking for more of a thrill, kayaking, rafting and paragliding are available.
20. Angel Falls, Venezuela
The highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, the cascades of Angel Falls plummet more than 2,600 feet. The powerful water tumbles over the rocks with a dramatic roar, and there are several smaller falls to add to the natural beauty.
While you won’t be able to bike to the jungle-surrounded falls, taking a diversion is well recommended. The falls are at their fullest and most spectacular from June to December.
With so many exciting places to tour by motorbike in South America, where will you be adding to your road trip bucket list?