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Top 12 Safest South American Countries to Visit As Soon As You Can

An aerial view of Machu Picchu with tourists.

Ever wondered why South America ranks among the top countries on the bucket list of many travelers? Simple – the entire continent is a perfect blend of vibrant culture, unique and varied landscapes, and the people? Let’s just say they have a peculiar zest for life!

With all the world’s famous must-see destinations on this continent, no traveler should ever miss out on the sheer beauty and fun to be had on this continent.

Unfortunately, some South American countries have gained a bit of a reputation for being unsafe. For example, the largest country on the content – Brazil, has got quite a bad rap. It is ranked among the countries with the highest crime rate in the world.

But the country is not all bad news, and in fact, Brazil is built with lots of tourist infrastructure. For example, lots of tourists love to visit the top of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janerio, the Tijuca National Park, and have incredible fun during the Rio Carnival.

But hey, you’re not here to learn about crime zones in South America, right? So, let’s check out the safest South American countries that any first-time traveler can visit without needing to keep their wits about.

1. Chile

A look at the Moais of Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island in Chile.

Chile is rapidly becoming a must-visit destination in South America because there’s just so much to do and see in the continent’s safest country. What’s not to love about a country where the entire outdoor is a playground? The only concern here is that Chile is prone to earthquakes, but earthquakes are fairly predictable.

Things to do in Chile

  • Start by visiting Santiago, the largest city in Chile, and catch a glimpse of the concert avenues, colonial architecture, and museums.
  • Take a trip to Valparaiso and enjoy the breathtaking city known as Chile’s cultural capital.
  • Visit one of the world’s most famous national parks, the Torres del Paine National Park, if you’re after nature.
  • Check out the mysterious Moai statues on Easter Island.
  • A visit to the Atacama Desert will leave you astonished at the huge sculpted “Hand of the Desert.”

2. Costa Rica

A scenic view of the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

The tropical country of Costa Rica has an impressively stable political record, making it one of the safest South American countries to visit. With astonishing natural sceneries and extremely friendly locals, this is every adventurer’s paradise!

Things to do in Costa Rica

  • Experience grade 3 and 4 rapids while river rafting through the Turrialba Valley.
  • You will thoroughly enjoy a couple of nights in San Jose’s vibrant nightlife if you’re a nighthawk.
  • Explore the site of Costa Rica’s active volcano at the Arenal Volcano National Park.

3. Argentina

A look at the Perito Moreno Glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.

Argentina is South America’s second-largest country. It offers a mix of impressive culture and astounding natural landscapes. Its art, literature, music, and architecture, combined with a series of magnificent waterfalls, steep mountains, and glaciers that are almost beyond belief, are among the country’s greatest attractions. Besides petty crimes, which are common in large cities, the country is relatively safe to visit.

This is an aerial view of the Iguazu Falls that can be viewed by tourists on a long wooden platform.

Things to do in Argentina

  • Take amazing photos at the iconic Perito Moreno glacier.
  • Explore the Andes Mountains for an incredible hiking experience.
  • Don’t miss the sensational and astonishing experience at the Iguazu waterfalls.

4. Uruguay

A look at the Punta del Este in Uruguay.

For an incredibly relaxed atmosphere, a visit to Uruguay is in order. The country is among the safest in South America, so you can expect to have a smooth tourist experience. The small country Spanish-speaking country is relatively less known compared to other countries in South America. Uruguay has a somewhat similar flavor to Argentina but with a more laid-back attitude.

Things to do in Uruguay

  • Try out the cuisine in Mercardo Del Puerto or any of the local markets.
  • Visit the unspoiled beaches and campsites around Punta Del Diablo.
  • Visit Salto and Paysandu and treat yourself to a relaxing hot spring.

5. Panama

A look at the colorful and historic old town in Panama City.

Is Panama safe? Indeed, it is. However, avoid a visit to Darien – one of the most isolated places on the planet! Panama is more famous for its leisurely pursuit than dazzling ruins and colonial cities.

Two of its biggest attractions are golf and beaches, making it the perfect travel destination for tourists who prefer not to see too many breathtaking sights on their trip.

Things to do in Panama

  • Visit the lush forests and sandy beaches of the Pearl Islands.
  • Visit the famous and amazing Panama Canal.
  • Take a walk through Panama City and explore the parks, casinos, and skyscrapers.

6. Ecuador

This is a view of the Ingapirca, Inca wall and town, Inca ruins in Ecuador.

The small country of Ecuador is surprisingly filled with tons of astonishing landscapes, such as beautiful beaches, towering active volcanoes, and lush jungles. You’ll need to be careful about tap water and some foods when visiting Ecuador, as they are common occurrences of food poisoning and unsafe drinking water. In terms of crime, you should be safe if you stay away from the northern areas of the country like Sucumbios and Carchi.

Things to do in Ecuador

  • Explore the old-fashioned town of Quito for a unique and authentic Ecuador experience.
  • Go for a train ride through Devil’s Nose route if you want to experience a hair-raising ride through the Andes.
  • Visit the Galapagos Islands for a first-hand surreal experience of the volcanic spots.

7. Paraguay

An aerial view of The Saltos del Monday near the city of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

You’re likely going to find only a few tourists in Paraguay, but it’s got nothing to do with the country being unsafe. Instead, the country’s astonishing natural beauty has somehow not been fully explored. Paraguay is one of the continent’s hidden gems with rich history and culture, spectacular landscapes, natural lakes, and amazing waterfalls.

Things to do in Paraguay

  • The Jesus and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins are a must-visit destination.
  • Take a day trip to the Ybycuí National Park and bask in the natural beauty of Paraguay.
  • Climb the rocky walls of the thunderous Saltos del Monday waterfalls if you’re feeling adventurous. Otherwise, simply stick to taking pictures of waterfalls.

8. Peru

A llama in front of the the view of the ancient inca town of Machu Picchu.

Besides being one of the safest South American countries, Peru is a popular tourist destination, and for good reasons, too! There’s no shortage of places to explore in Peru, from the capital city of Lima to Machu Picchu, and all the beautiful lakes and spectacular Andes mountains.

Things to do in Peru

  • A visit to Peru is almost incomplete without seeing Machu Picchu – the mother of all archeological ruins!
  • On your way from Machu Picchu, have a quick tour of Cusco – the beautiful town located near the famous Inca Trail.
  • Take a trip to Lima if you’re looking to see and surf beautiful beaches.

9. Bolivia

This is a look at the rooftops of Potosi in Bolivia that is set against the backdrop of a rainbow-colored mountain, the Cerro Rico.

Want to push your comfort zone? Plan a trip to Bolivia! The destination is tourist-friendly for several reasons, but of note is its lowest crime rate in South America. You’ll need to take some time to settle in when you first arrive before you start exploring the country due to its remarkably high altitude.

Things to do in Bolivia

  • A visit to the Salar de Uyuni is guaranteed to take blow you away. The salt flats are simply incredible to behold!
  • Check out famous places in La Paz, including Plaza Murillo and the weird Witches Market.
  • Take a trip to Lake Titicaca – the planet’s highest navigable lake.
  • For some entertainment, grab a front-row seat and experience the traditional Cholita wrestling.

10. Guyana

This is an aerial view of the Kaieteur Falls and Guyana's rainforest.

Guyana – the country of beautiful and stunning landscapes is among the safest South American countries that have become a favorite travel destination.

However, you need to be alert if you’re visiting Georgetown, the capital city. The city has gained quite a reputation for pickpockets and being rough – it is South America’s Wild Wild West! Besides, the roads are just terrible. Your best bet would be to spend more time in the interior of the country.

Things to do in Guyana

  • The planet’s tallest single-drop waterfall, Kaieteur Falls, is a must-see spot.
  • Explore the Bourda Market and St. George’s Cathedral if you’re spending a couple of days in the capital city.
  • Visit the Iwokrama Rainforest.

11. Nicaragua

This is an aerial view of the active Masaya Volcano near Managua, Nicaragua.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Nicaragua is not a destination for the faint-hearted! Although I’ve included it in the safest South American countries, it is more suitable for travelers who’ll like to experience something that’ll keep them on edge. Plus, this is the spot for you if you love to explore ancient history and culture.

Things to do in Nicaragua 

  • Visit the Ometepe Island – the only island on the planet that consists of two volcanoes right in the middle of a lake!
  • Go to Granada, Leon, and other colonial towns with fascinating architecture.
  • Join the locals for fun cultural celebrations – there’s usually one of these celebrations happening.

12. Suriname

A look at the colorful cabins along the Suriname river near Menimi, Djemongo, Upper Suriname.

Suriname is quite the opposite of Brazil on more than one level. Besides being the smallest country in South America (with Brazil being the largest), it is a safe place to visit, and almost feels as if it has an air of “untouched beauty.”

Surprisingly, Suriname has a lot to offer for a country its size. If you’ve ever wondered why the country is dubbed “Earth’s Greenest Treasure,” it is because 90% of the country’s area is covered in a primeval rainforest (no other country in the world has that proportion!). And that’s its biggest attraction for travelers.

Things to do in Suriname

  • Visit the Brownsberg, where you can hike to beautiful waterfalls and possibly see some golden-footed tamarin.
  • Visit the Suriname Bird Paradise to see some of the rarest birds in the world.
  • Take a cruise across the river where beautiful pink dolphins play, and massive sea turtles swim to the beach to lay eggs sometimes.
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