More than half of the population believe traveling is a way of relaxing, and it absolutely can be. However, I have always found that traveling changes one’s perspective of the world we live in. To quote a well-known expert on this field – Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018): “Travel isn’t always pretty. It is not always comfortable.

Sometimes it hurts; it even breaks your heart. However, that is okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

South America is the land of crazy parties, epic surfing, sprawling cities, and wild landscapes, including the Andes and the Amazon forest. Deciding where to go and how to plan a backpacking trip can be a mind-boggling task, so here are some places that you can’t miss:

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

There are many places on Earth considered spectacular and unique. Bolivia’s popular salt flats or Salar de Uyuni definitely qualifies as one of them. Unlike traditional deserts, which have sand in abundance, this particular desert features vast expanses of glistening white salt. The landscape is entirely flat, with the exception of a few smalls ‘islands’.

The Uyuni Salt Flats are famous for its mirror effect. If you want to take a Salar de Uyuni tour and experience this phenomenon, it is recommended to go in the rainy season (from December to April) as the landscape is filled with a thin layer of water reflecting the sky on the ground with unparalleled views.

Machu Picchu, Perú

The ancient city of Perú was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. A trip to Machu Picchu is much more than just a vacation. It is a journey. There are many routes that you may choose to accomplish one of the most exciting and fulfilling journeys you will ever embark upon. Horse riding is available for elderly travelers since it is often a long and physical trekking.

The place is probably the most typical symbols of the Inca Empire because of its original location and geological features, due to its late discovery in 1911. Only 30% of the original construction remains, the rest has been rebuilt, easily recognized by the fit between the stones. The original construction is formed by larger stones, and with grooves with space between the rocks.

To have a better perspective of this sacred city, which is UNESCO World Heritage and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World we advise you to go early in the morning and watch the sun rising over the green peaks.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro means in Portuguese ‘January River’. It is a very poetic name for a city with more than 200 rivers running through it, but, surprisingly, none of those rivers is responsible for its name. When Gaspar de Lemos, a Portuguese explorer, arrived in Rio de Janeiro in January 1502, he thought Guanabara Bay was the mouth of a large river and, as a result, named the area ‘River of January’.

The largest international tourist destination in Brazil, in Latin America and the entire Southern Hemisphere, the capital of Rio de Janeiro is the most well-known Brazilian city abroad, functioning as a national “mirror” or “portrait”, whether positively or negatively. Its most known ‘postcard’ is Christ The Redeemer, also one of the 7 New Wonders, a 38m tall statue of Jesus with open arms.

Rio de Janeiro inherited a strong cultural vocation. It has been one of Brazil’s most popular and frequented tourist destinations for decades. It is a vibrant city center, bursting with culture and pulsating with a deep sense of history and heritage. Regarding the main event, the Carnival and the International Film Festival stand out.

Medellín, Colombia

Medellín is busy, chaotic and given its past some travelers may decide to stay away from it. On the other hand, it is currently a hyped city, portrayed in numerous TV shows, thus travelers gravitate towards it.

Not only “Lonely Planet” called Colombia the 2nd Best Country to Visit, but “Travel & Leisure” has designate it as “South America’s Best Kept Secret”. Colombia is in fact a perfect tourism sweet spot balanced between being one of the hottest destinations or out of the plan of any backpacker.