South America has a bit of everything, from beaches and seaside towns to mountains and volcanoes, rainforests and ruins to bustling cities. For photographers of all levels, this diversity makes the continent something of a paradise. So, whether you’re bringing along a simple point-and-shoot or your trusty DSLR, let’s look at some of the top South American destinations for photographers.
Yasuní National Park, Ecuador
Ideal for: nature
If you’re interested in honing (and challenging!) your nature photography skills, Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park in the Amazon is hard to beat. Considered the most biologically diverse place on the planet, the Yasuní rainforest sits the crossroads of the Andes, the Amazon, and the Equator and contains 117 different bat species, nearly 600 bird species, and over 100,000 different species of insects. The region is also home to about 130 different globally-threatened species, including the giant otter, giant armadillo, and the elusive jaguar.
If you’re planning a trip to the Yasuní, be sure to do your research and choose an eco-friendly accommodation run by locals. Not only are the local tribes the most knowledgeable about the region, but you’ll be supporting their livelihoods, which continue to be threatened as oil exploration moves deeper into the area.
Lake District, Argentina and Chile
Ideal for: landscapes
While the lake district is really part of Patagonia, it has a different landscape and feel — one that’s perfect for photographers looking to capture gorgeous landscapes in a more moderate climate. Often referred to as ‘Switzerland of the south,’ the lake district has a strong Swiss and German heritage — and scenery to match. In addition to the blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and forests, the region also boasts lots of booths and shops selling local handicrafts, and plenty of legends and folklore.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ideal for: city culture
The capital city of Argentina is known for its tango and grilled meat, but it’s also an excellent place for photographers to capture Buenos Aires’ unique culture. Between the brightly-colored 19th century buildings and the vibrant street art, you’ll want to keep your camera close at hand all day. San Telmo is a must-visit in the city. The oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, it’s famous for its year-round Sunday market, street murals, and pop-up art galleries that attract visitors from all over the world. And if you can catch a couple mid-tango at one of the many dinner show venues, so much the better!
Ideal for: culture and history
Though Cusco is often the stop for trekkers to Machu Picchu, it’s an incredible destination in its own right. Once the capital of the Incan empire, Cusco is full of narrow cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, beautiful churches, and friendly (and colorful) locals — often with llamas. If you’re looking for a taste of the ruins, the Sacred Valley is an excellent place to explore and offers beautiful valley views and plenty of local markets selling souvenirs, textiles, and produce (notably in Chinchero). Note that while people in the markets are often happy to have their photos taken, they may ask for a bit of change in return.