It’s a new year, and what better way to kick it off than planning a South American adventure?
While 6.5 million tourists visit Brazil and another 1.7 million visit Costa Rica every year, we have something even more exotic in mind. How about taking a trip to one of the many beautiful Islands in South America?
South America boasts fantastic weather, rich history, and vivid culture accessible almost all year round. But, with so many options, where should you book your vacation?
We’re giving you the rundown of the seven most fascinating islands in South America to visit. Put these on your bucket list, grab your sunscreen and bathing suit, and dive in!
1. San Andres, Colombia
North of the Colombian mainland, San Andres is part of an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Its official languages are Spanish, Creole, and English.
San Andres (or, Saint Andrew) is historically tied to the UK. However, it’s politically tied to Colombia.
UNESCO declared the archipelago along with 10% of the Caribbean Sea as a Biosphere Reserve (officially, Seaflower Biosphere Reserve) in 2000. With 40 dive sites, San Andres is popular among scuba divers who want to explore its reefs.
2. Falkland Islands, British Overseas Territory
If you immediately think of penguins when you hear “Falkland Islands,” it’s for good reason. Although the Falklands aren’t near Antarctica, you’d think you magically transported there upon arrival.
The Falklands have snowy mountains, rough and rocky coastlines and — of course — penguins! It’s estimated there are close to 500,000 pairs of penguins from five different species living on the Falkland Islands.
If you’re wanting an unusual but memorable vacation, the Falklands are it!
3. Cagarras Islands, Brazil
Brazil is famous for its beaches. But, visitors say the Cagarras Islands are among the finest in the world.
Cagarras is only three miles from Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, making it very accessible. It’s also a fantastic day trip if you’re already in the colorful country.
There is plenty of wildlife to see on land and underwater. You can surf, scuba dive, or partake in various adventure sports. If you want a quiet getaway, Cagarras offer lots to see via walking trails, too!
4. Isla Magdalena, Chile
If you want to see penguins, but you happen to be closer to the South American mainland, look no further than Isla Magdalena in Chile. Magdalena Island in the Straits of Magellan is a national nature reserve due to its importance as a penguin breeding ground.
The island is a hotspot for tourist activity who want to see the more than 120,000 penguins roaming free.
5. La Blanquilla, Venezuela
If you always wanted to relive Tom Hanks’ moments of isolation from the movie Castaway, look no further than La Blanquilla.
The desolate limestone island is 186 miles west of Venezuela and is a dream getaway for any adventurer. It’s also a vacation spot for celebrities who want some peace and quiet in the sand and surf.
Reefs surround the island, which is famous for its rare black coral. A charter boat trip will give you a glimpse of blueheads, French angelfish, and porcupine fish. But, watch out — you may run into the occasional flying fish, too!
If you want to stay on dry land, you’ll have plenty of wildlife to see. Donkeys and parrots both call this South American island home.
6. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
If you’re a nature lover, a trip to the Galapagos Islands has to be on your bucket list. There may not be a better place in the world to soak in Mother Nature’s glory than this magnificent island group about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.
Not only does the Galapagos Islands having stunning landscapes, but it’s also home to the most unique animals only found here. Kaleidoscopic iguanas, sea snakes, giant tortoises, and sharks come at you from all directions.
The Galapagos inspired Charles Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” and “Natural Selection.” UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1978.
The Galapagos aren’t your traditional beachy-type escape many may crave, but it’s an experience like none other.
While travel to Ecuador has gotten a bad rap over the years, it’s very possible to have an incident-free vacation. Make sure you follow the suggested Ecuador travel safety tips as you can never be too cautious when traveling abroad.
7. Easter Island, Chile
A visit to the mysterious Easter Island rounds out our list of the most intriguing islands in South America. It’s another dream locale for nature and history buffs.
Located 2,300 off Chile’s west coast, the locals call it Rapa Nui and it’s only 64 square miles. But even more amazing than its remoteness is what makes Easter Island famous — the statues.
Almost 900 enormous Moai statues inhabit the island. Each one weighs 13 tons and stands 13 feet tall. The statues have puzzled visitors — both vacationers and archeologists — for centuries.
Aside from the array of massive stone figures, the island itself is stunning. Rich in Polynesian history, the island also boasts the Rapa Nui National Park which UNESCO declared a World Heritage Site in 1995.
Are You Ready to Head to These Islands in South America?
This list doesn’t scratch the surface of all of the beautiful islands in South America. Anywhere you choose, you’re in for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime.
Colorful, vibrant houses paint the coast of Chiloé, Chile. Isla Navarino, also in Chile, has massive snow-capped mountain peaks that jut from the nearly-untouched forest. Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago 200 miles from northeastern Brazil with crystal-blue water and tons of diverse marine life.