The beautiful landscapes, ancient ruins and dramatic culture of South America are enough to make anyone want to visit this amazing continent. When someone mentions South America the first things that usually come to mind are Machu Picchu, Rio De Janeiro and of course the Amazon – but there’s a whole lot more to South America than just these iconic landmarks.
We wanted to get a firsthand opinion on this destination from someone who knows it like the back of her hand, so we decided to ask our resident expert (and South American expat) Grace. Grace was born in the South of Peru and lived there until her late teens. She joined Peregrine Travel Centre Adelaide as a consultant in 2016 and has travelled through Europe, Asia, South and North America and Australia – but she tries to go back home as much as she can as there’s so much to see and experience.
We asked Grace some questions about her home and why it should be on everyone’s travel to do list.
1. How would you describe South America to someone who hasn’t been there before?
Prepare to be blown away! South America is huge and has something for everyone. Geographically it has high mountains, dense rainforest, picturesque highlands and wonderful bodies of water. From ancient cultures to amazing nature and unique wildlife to pristine beaches and volcanoes. South America has a little bit of everything.
2. What are your top 5 places to see when visiting?
Torres del Paine
3. Any recommendations for amazing local food travellers should try?
The street food is amazing, every region has a unique and delicious specialty to try. If you can, I would highly recommend that you eat at the local markets.
Most local restaurants have set lunch menus where you can try a variety of food in a traditional setting, with some places even having live music to go with your meal. South America is a melting pot of European, Native and Asian cuisine (mostly Chinese and Japanese) so there’s definitely something for everyone. Peruvian Chinese food is quite fun to try and is nothing like your local take away.
If you’re in South America then you can’t leave without trying some local delicacies – Ceviche, Alpaca stew, Guinea Pig, Argentinian BBQ and the Feijolada (bean stew). Some of these might sound a little different to what you’re used too, but don’t be afraid to give them a try.
If you have a sweet tooth you should definitely try Lucuma ice-cream or pie, the flavour is a cross between caramel and mocha and it is delicious! There’s also Mazamorra Morada (purple custard that is made using native purple corn).
If you are a passionate foodie you should try to time your visit to Peru with Mistura, Latin America’s largest food festival that is huge and is growing every year. In 2017 the festival is being held in September.
4. What is the best way to get around when travelling through South America?
This is a tricky question. If you are pressed for time and only have 2-4 weeks to visit you are better off flying and taking a guided tour, that way you can maximise your time and avoid the hassle of long hours travelling by road.
If you have more time, or you are just visiting one country, you can always travel by bus. South American buses are extremely comfortable and fast, they follow strict safety rules and are a great way to practice your Spanish.
If you are in one place you can always take local buses, the tuk tuks or a motorcycle taxi. All great fun!
5. When is the best time of the year to visit?
February is terribly rainy and is hard to travel over the highlands, if you want to do the Inca trek or spend time in Bolivia make sure you avoid this time of the year as there are too many disruptions. If you are heading South, the best time to trek and see wildlife is during the Summer months (December to March).
Ecuador and Galapagos are good to visit all year around.
6. There’s a whole list of amazing things to do in South America, but what’s something that travellers should do that is a little bit different? Something that only locals know about?
South American’s love soccer, try to attend a local game where you get to soak in the atmosphere.
Religious celebrations are also a great way to see the other side of the country, as they tend to have a bit of a carnival atmosphere and local vendors take over. Some parades, like the Candelaria, involve colourful costumes and endless parades. Though these celebrations are of a religious nature, the celebrations are a mix of Indigenous and Spanish culture.
Go dancing! We love to dance, you can go to a Pen~a (a traditional music club/restaurant) or a Milonga in Argentina (local tango club) these places are very different from a nightclub and have a more family friendly atmosphere.
One of the benefits of having a local tour leader is that they can help you make your trip extra memorable by suggesting places to go that you otherwise wouldn’t know about!
7. Can you give us a few phrases in Spanish that travellers can use along the way?
– Hello – Hola
– Please – Por favour
– Thank you – Gracias
– How are you? – Como esta?
– How much – Cuanto cuesta?
– Too expensive – Muy caro
People tend to be more formal when they don’t know someone and rather than say Hello will use:
– Good Morning – Buenos dias
– Good Afternoon – Buenas tardes
– Good Evening – Buenas noches
8. Any other words of wisdom for people considering South America as their next holiday destination?
South America is a bit like Australia, distances are huge and you need to allow yourself plenty of time to get the most out of the countries you are visiting.
Make sure you have the right vaccinations and visas to enter different countries (we can help you with that).
Support responsible projects in the places you visit, there are plenty of organizations that are making a difference throughout the places we travel.
If you’re considering travelling to South America you can find lots of information and great tours on our website – you can also come in and chat to Grace or one of our many consultants who have visited this wonderful continent.