Wendy Wu’s First Timers Guide to South America

A Note From Wendy

South America. The very idea of the continent conjures up images of lost empires, mysterious civilisations and natural landscapes beyond compare. For many years, my returning guests have asked me “Wendy, I love Asia, but I have already seen it all with you!  Where else can you take me?”.

So, it has long been a dream of mine to share the richness of this area with my returning guests. I have just returned from seven weeks exploring her wilds, her cities and her cultures. So I am delighted to share with you, my guide to your first time visiting South America. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! Fingers crossed it whets your appetite for the adventures that await you.

Lots of Cheers,


 Machu Picchu, Peru

The South America that you’ve always dreamed of, and certainly the most famous of all the sites in South America. For first timers you must visit the famously preserved Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. The city ruins are steeped in mystery and sit 2,430m above sea level, and a marvellous UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is believed to have been built as grounds for Emperor Pacachuti in 15th-century. It was quickly abandoned upon the arrival of the Spanish. Machu Picchu’s speedy desertion, paired with the fact that it was never found by colonisers, have been key to the preservation of its structures and terraces.

Locals have always known about Machu Picchu, but it only entered mainstream consciousness thanks to the research of Historian, Hiram Bingham. In 1911, Bingham was searching for “lost city of the Incas”, when a local farmer alerted him to the site. Comprised of a series of crumbling buildings, and over 3000 steps across approx. 8km, the site remains firmly at the top of travellers bucket lists.

SEE IT ON… Panoramic Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu

 Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia

At South America’s largest lake, the pace of life slows down; located to the north of the Altiplano basic, high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Consequently, a visit to Lake Titicaca is to step back in time to highland cultures, steeped in traditional life.

Plateau’s stretch for miles ahead and crops are harvested by hand. From the shores of Lake Titicaca, it is an easy sail to the acclaimed Moon and Sun islands, where women still wear petticoats and bowler hats. With plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with Alpacas, Lamas and Vicunas, it’s a must-visit.

SEE IT ON…Panoramic Peru

Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Titicaca

 Cartagena, Columbia

Resplendent with colour and cobblestones underfoot, Cartagena sits on the Caribbean coast. Dripping with romance of bygone times, set within a 13km colonial city wall, the Old Town is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk beneath balconies that are heavy with bright flowers and maze-like alleyways are the perfect place to dawdle.

Within the town, a number of colonial churches tower over the lanes, creating shady spots, perfect for resting. If you look to the horizon, the Castillo de San Felipe fortress rises high on the hill of San Lazaro.

Set aside any preconceptions you may have about Colombia, Cartagena is the country’s most popular destination! With the neighbourhoods of Boca Grande and Manga inviting tourists from all over the world to explore their beauty.

This is not the place to tick off lists, this is the place to relax and soak up the magic where South America meets the sparkling Caribbean.

SEE IT ON…Colombia Discovery

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Columbia

 Buenos Aires, Argentina

The heartbeat of South America! The cosmopolitan capital of Tango, Asado (bbq) and Mate tea, Buenos Aires is an extremely diverse and cultural city. Often coined the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires’ reputation as a romantic and lively city is completely justified. Plaza de Mayo, an elegant nineteenth-century central square is at the heart of the city and has witnessed the most significant events in Argentine history.

Visitors should explore the antique shops in San Telmo, Buenos Aires’ oldest neighbourhood and La Boca where you can walk the celebrated Caminito (little street), admiring the beautifully coloured buildings. Tigre, is perhaps Buenos Aires’ best-kept secret, a popular weekend destination for locals defined by its position on the banks of the Parana Delta. Marinas, mansions and rowing clubs are commonplace here and there are many water-based activities available. Buenos Aires is a long-time favourite of travellers, with a throbbing heartbeat of music, food and wine.

SEE IT ON…Treasures of South America

Street Tango, Argentina
Street Tango

 Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

Powerful and fierce, it was reported that when the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, first laid eyes on the tumbling waters of Iguazu Falls she uttered, “Poor Niagara”! An astute observation as Iguazu falls is truly impressive and visitors are often gobsmacked at the sheer power of the waters here.

The scale of the falls is massive, spanning more than 2.7km and consisting of more than 275 individual waterfalls and cataracts. These magnificent falls define the border between Argentina and Brazil. Meaning that travellers to the falls are best to visit both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side, with each having its own dramatic views and vistas. A train ride to the most impressive observation point – the Devils Throat is a must-do!

SEE IT ON…Essence of Argentina and Brazil

Iguazu Falls, South America
Iguazu Falls

 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

From one iconic image to the next, Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s most famous city. The energetic and unrivalled seaside city of Rio is home to so many highlights; Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana, Ipanema beach and the noisy and rhythmic Carnivale.

At the centre of the city at the top of Tijuca Forest sits the instantly recognisable Christ the Redeemer. Traveling through the forest to the peak on the lively cog train is an enchanting experience. With arms wide open the statue and his visitors share extraordinary views of the city and the surrounding bays and islands. Copacabana and Ipanema are more than beaches, they are some of Rio’s liveliest neighbourhoods and strolling along the promenades is an essential Rio experience.

Make sure to taste the incredible street foods Rio has to offer but beware Brazilians sure do have a sweet tooth!

SEE IT ON…Essence of Argentina & Brazil

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Christ The Redeemer

 Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Grand and rugged, the mighty mountainscape of Torres del Paine National Park, is one of the continent’s most pristine ecosystems. Wander under snowy mountain peaks, around aquamarine lakes, and even hear landslides tumbling in the distance.

The park is most famous for its namesake which translates to ‘The Blue Towers’, enormous jagged granite towers that you cannot miss. Between the icebergs, grasslands and lakes Torres del Paine is a visual feast for the eyes and a buffet of sensory experiences.

SEE IT ON…Chile: Top to Toe

Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park

 Perito Merino Glacier, Patagonia

Ancient and silent, the Perito Merino Glacier lies quietly yet spectacularly in Los Glaciares National Park, in Argentina Patagonia. A colossal remnant of the Ice Age, thirty kilometres long, five kilometres wide and sixty metres high, the glacier is viewable from a platform that allows visitors to get up close and personal, even watch giant icebergs calve off. From the Brazo Rico side of the lake you can even be lucky enough to witness one of the massive ruptures that sees an outpouring of water into the body of the lake.

SEE IT ON…Ultimate South America

Perito Merino Glacier, South America
Perito Merino Glacier

 The Amazon, Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, while the Amazon River is the world’s longest river, passing through seven countries. Manaus, the capitol of Amazonas in the North of Brazil is the gateway to the Amazon. The largest city in the heart of the world’s biggest jungle, Manaus is host to some amazing and exclusive experiences. Animals and humans interact in unimaginable ways, sloths are common throughout the city getting into all sorts of mischief, and pink bottle nose dolphins work with local fisherman for a share of the catch.

From Manaus travellers can access the world’s most life-giving river. Giver of life to the flora and fauna on her banks, the powerful Amazon river also supports life across the planet, generating twenty percent of the world’s oxygen and housing half of the worlds estimated 10,000 species. Wander through her dense jungle, or sail down one of her tributaries, her waters are filled with exotic animals like the mythical pink dolphin and the hungry piranha.

The Amazon River, South America
The Amazon

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