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10 Budget-Friendly Destinations in South America

An array of dazzling beaches to breathtaking mountains, rich and diverse cultures, breathtaking scenery, an abundance of wildlife; South America is full of exciting things to see and do. The irresistible charm of South America is full of inexpensive destinations and doesn't have the high price tags unlike most Western European destinations. Whether you are interested in enjoying salsa dance on the streets of Cartagena, Colombia, or trekking through the immense Amazon rainforest, you will not run out of adventurous activities while vacating at any of the countries in South America. This continent also utilizes the same time zone as the United States, so you won’t feel jet-lagged or need to wake up at odd-hours. If you’re looking for a South American getaway that too under the budget, take a look at these 10 great South American destinations:

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Perched between the smashing Andean mountains, Quito is located at 9,186 feet above sea level with one of the best-preserved historic centers in Latin America. A UNESCO designated heritage site, Quito is the oldest capital among all the South American countries. It's also the capital city that is closest to the equator and also the designated headquarters of the Union of South American Nations.

As the country falls along near to equator, thus the name Ecuador came about but due to its high elevation Quito's temperatures are mild and consistent year-round. Schedule your visit anytime of the year as temperatures here doesn't vary much making it a great place to visit any time of the year. Carry sunscreen, a hat, and umbrella to protect yourself from getting sunburned as Quito’s cool temperatures and misty mornings might trick you.

The sights in Quito are either free of charge or extremely affordable. Travelers to Quito shouldn't miss out on visiting Basilica del Voto Nacional and take advantage of fantastic views by going up in the bell tower. Quito Metropolitan Cathedral and Church of La Compañía de Jesus’ are the other largest religious symbols of spiritual value for the Catholic community in the city. An amazing food hall and marketplace, Mercado Central provides a taste of traditional Ecuadorian cuisine that’s authentic, delicious, and easy on the wallet.

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia

Famed for Simon Bolivar, the revolutionary who led country's fight for independence from Spain; Bolivia is a great destination that is off the beaten path for travelers. La Paz, capital of Bolivia, sitting over at 13,100 feet above sea level, is the governmental capital of Bolivia. Due to high altitude, you may find yourself getting out of breath by just walking down the street, it's recommended to get around by using the cable car lines crisscrossing the city.  

A pleasant destination, La Paz is cool and cloudy year-round and temperature doesn't experience large swings. The months of December and January see large crowds thronging the city whereas summer season is the least popular time for tourists, which can also make accommodations and tours more affordable.

Visit Sopocachi, an artsy neighborhood known for its cafes and beautiful streets and Calle Jean, a colonial street that has five small museums where you can learn more about Bolivia’s musical history, colonial life, folklore, and art. Popular attraction is Cholita Wrestling taking place on Sunday afternoon that involves indigenous Aymara women wrestling to a soundtrack of exuberant Bolivian music. 

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Reckoned as too dangerous destination to visit, Cartagena a Colombian city has transfigured the notion of visiting Colombia. It's a popular for becoming a great destination for a long weekend getaway or as a springboard for a comprehensive tour of South American cities. Cartagena is the initial port for all cruises starting from the United States and the airport has the best connectivity to and from the city.

Cartagena has sizzling temperatures any time of the year and if you're looking to beat the heat, plan your visit in the months of January to March when the daily temperatures are in the mid- to high-70s. Looking to beat the crowds, Cartagena’s low season is August through November, and you can find great deals at this time.

An active port city but isn't famous for its beaches, but more acclaimed for being most extensive and well-preserved colonial old towns. Cartagena in modern times is extremely safe, well-lit, and easy to navigate, even at night. If you adore seafood, you'll be blown away by the offerings in Cartagena and how affordable they are. The city also offers plenty of other delicious foods to enjoy including freshly squeezed fruit juices and arepas, maize flatbreads often stuffed with cheese or meat.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

Chile, being expensive of South American lot, is still affordable by North American standards, and by taking benefit of plenty of free and inexpensive attractions and staying in budget accommodations, you can see and do an array of amazing things in Santiago. 

Stationed on the south of equator, Santiago has wintertime during the summer months and vice versa. If you want to enjoy warm weather, plan your travel in December, January, and February when temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. If you’re planning to beat the heat elsewhere in the US, visit in June, July, or August for the pleasant temperatures in the 60s.

In a budget vacation, plan to check out the city’s myriad parks and free outdoor spaces. Popular Quinta Normal Park is home to or nearby several museums and cultural sites, including the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. An array of green areas in the city keep the travelers entertained such as Santa Lucia hill, and the shrine of the Virgin Mary on the summit of San Cristobal hill.

Paracas, Peru

Paracas, Peru

A hidden gem on the Pacific coast of Peru, little town of Paracas has always been overlooked for flashier tourist spots like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Amongst the greatest budget getaways in Peru, Paracas presents its case strongly amongst its peers in South America. Having exotic sandy beaches and plenty of natural attractions, Paracas is a small town with a laid-back attitude and great alternative to the frenzied feel of some of South America’s bigger cities.

Planning to swim or snorkel in Paracas, schedule your travel in the months from December through February. Clear sunny days welcome you all the time and the coldest time of year is the Peruvian winter months of June, July, and August when highs are in the 60s.

Ballestas Islands, a series of rocky islands just off the coast of Peru, is the most popular attraction of Paracas. Book your boat to these exotic islands and wander into town with family and friends. The kids love the seals, birds, sea lions, and the Humboldt penguin, a medium-sized bird listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Paracas National Reserve is famed for being one of the largest protected natural areas in South America.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A beautiful, energetic place, Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil behind Sao Paolo. An absolute frenzy takes over the city during Carnival, the huge festival held every year before the beginning of Lent. The city presents a magical blend of beautiful beaches, natural wonders, and thriving cultural attractions.

Don't plan to visit Rio during the Carnival as it can break your bank this time of the year. Rio presents plenty of activities at any of the year. The months of November, December, and January are the heated months and the peak tourist season of Rio de Janeiro is in August when temperatures are generally only in the mid-70s.

Check in to the Sugarloaf Mountain, which is 1,300 feet tall and rises out of the land like a huge loaf of bread. A can't miss site is Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, an enormous, 100-foot high statue of Jesus atop Corcovado Mountain is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The botanical garden of Rio is like a calm oasis in this busy city where you could easily spend an entire day.

Sucre, Bolivia

Sucre, Bolivia

A hidden gem which also has been rated as one of the safest cities in South America and relatively untouched by North American tourism, Sucre in Bolivia is a gem of a destination. Dubbed as the “white city” because of the beautiful whitewashed churches and colonial buildings, Sucre is surrounded by the lofty Andes.

A city with a relatively stable climate, which implies temperatures vary little throughout the year, and it never gets intolerably hot or bitterly cold like some places in South America. Plan to visit in the months of July or August to beat the crowds or if you plan to check out in high season, the most popular month to visit is January.

The attractions here include the main market, Mercado Central, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, dried herbs, household goods, and more. Rio has the world’s largest collection of dinosaur prints at Parque Cretácico, located just outside the city at a concrete quarry. It's a museum stacked with life-size replicas, and excavated rocks that embrace the invertebrate fossils of many dinosaur species.

Peruvian Highlands, Peru

Peruvian Highlands, Peru

The iconic Peruvian Highlands, constitute almost 30% of the country of Peru, are an integral part Andes in Ecuador and Brazil. Explore the Machu Picchu and other parts of the Peruvian Highlands, including the Inca Trail and towns like Pisac, and visitors will have a more genuine Peruvian experience

Plan to visit the Peruvian Highlands in either The dry season, which is between May and October, or wet season that begins from November to March. Dry season is the more popular among tourists and you might have to pay higher prices to book accommodations. Wet season has markedly fewer visitors and lower rates on hotels and tours during these months.

Plan to visit the Colca Canyon situated in the southern part of Peru, one of the world’s deepest canyons and a popular trip for hikers. It's also the home to the Andean condor, the giant vulture that’s the largest flying bird in the world. Checking into the ruins, Ollantaytambo, is often the starting point for those hiking the Inca Trail. Spend few days in Huancavelica, a laid-back city with plenty of tradition and an excellent place for beautiful colonial plazas for strolling and picnics.

Cordoba, Argentina

Cordoba, Argentina

Being eminent for a more relaxed, easygoing city than Buenos Aires, Cordoba in Argentina has plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities like parasailing and priceless pieces of art. The historical city is home to the country’s oldest university, and parts of it definitely feel like a fun college town, complete with broke-student prices.

The city has subtropical climate with four separate seasons and summer season spreads from November to March; temperatures reach the mid-90s during these months. Most popular tourist season is in between July and September when the weather is in the much more temperate 50s and 60s.

The most chilled out things to see in Cordoba is the Museo de la Memoria, which is dedicated to the time period from the years 1974 to 1983 when Argentina was run by a military junta. Another excellent museum is the Evita Fine Arts Museum, abode in a Beaux-Arts mansion called Ferreyra Palace and built between the years 1912 and 1916. The artwork, having paintings by done by Picasso, is brilliant, and the lavish mansion and grounds are a sight to see as well.

Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay

Being a part of landlocked country on the South American continent, Paraguay is known to be the least expensive countries to travel to. Stunning buildings, a strong national soccer team with enthusiastic fans, delicious food, and interesting culture, Asuncion is the capital of Paraguay and located on the border of Paraguay and Argentina.

Looking to explore Asuncion in warm weather, visit in December, January, or February when highs can reach 100 degrees. The pleasant weather is in the months of May, June, and July when it’s moderate at 60 to 70 degrees. 

Planning to discover the Asuncion, you should stroll through its many parks and squares. The most popular being Jardin Botanico y Zoologico, a botanical garden with lots of serenity and having two trails within the park for visitors. Check out the Museo del Barro, a free of charge museum that incorporates historical and modern Paraguayan art, native crafts, pottery, and Jesuit and Franciscan art.