3 Spots on Sunday – Cities to Visit in South America

Hi folks, it’s another Sunday, and another ‘three’. This time I’m talking about cities I liked visiting in South America. I wanted to try and steer clear of capital cities, and I did it! So don’t be confused by my third option, it is not the capital! South America is an incredible continent, I can’t stress that strongly enough. From mountains to beaches, to inland deserts that were once oceans and ancient cities there is so much to explore which isn’t ‘city-based’. But if you are looking for a nice city or two to explore, here are three of my favourites, all bar one are regarded as pretty safe, and I personally felt safe in all three. But the third one does have a reputation so you’re best to exercise caution!

  1. Cuenca, Ecuador

Elevated at just over 2,500 metres, with 400,000 as its urban population, built over hills full of colonial architecture, with a laid back feel and an ancient city hiding away in one part, Cuenca is really a special city. You find it in the south of Ecuador, a long way from the capital Quito. I had three beautiful, sunny days there staying in a private room Air Bnb deal with a very friendly host.

Cuenca from the ancient citadel.

I saw a bunch of churches – their was a great view from one of them, the church of the Immaculate Conception. Not only stunning views of Cuenca, but also it’s great to be able to get up to the top between the domes. Exploring the town on foot is great, just pace yourself as you are at altitude. The ‘Ruinas de Pamapungo’ are spread out over fields, adjoining a large park with an aviary and are another highlight.

  1. Salta, Argentina

Salta was my first city in Argentina. Although a long ride from the Bolivian border, it is still well in the north-west of Argentina. Whereas Buenos Aires is huge and overwhelming in parts, and you get the sense that you need to be on your guard especially in certain parts of town, Salta is much more easy going and you can relax a little here.

It’s a very attractive city, with a central square surrounded by eateries and museums. Most South American cities seem to pride themselves on their central squares, they are usually full of greenery and a place to meet, chat, and reflect, and so is Salta’s.

From my Air Bnb window, Salta

Also on the central square is the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana. You’ll want to check this out – one of the best museums for Incan finds there is with the mummified remains of Incan children on display. There are also churches (such as the Eglesia de San Franscisco), more museums and more, and a gondola ride up to the top of a hill with a great view of the town. Or, walk it! I cheated – I walked down but not up!

  1. Rio De Janeiro

Rio volleyball Ipanema

Ipanema in the sunshine

And… it had to be. Okay, so yes please do exercise caution in Brazil’s most famous and most visited city. Personally, I never felt under threat but it does happen! However, it really is a wonderful city with a completely different vibe and atmosphere to any of the other cities I visited in South America.

Really, you could spend a long time here and just see it little by little. From the statue of Christ the Redeemer (great views) to gondolas up Sugar Loaf (also great views), you get a real sense of this amazing beachside city punctuated by sharp rocky mountains. It’s breathtaking, and it’s beautiful!

The beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana are pretty much just as I thought they would be. Alive with activity, sport, and bodies a lot slimmer than mine! And little bars along them too, what a great place for a beer.

Entrance staircase in Catete Palace

The city has some great architecture as well, and some interesting architecture. The Metropolitan Cathedral is a grey edifice that is surprisingly spiritual inside. The Museum of the Republic is housed inside Catete Palace, which used to be the Presidential Palace and is stunning inside and well worth a visit. And then you can, if you want to, take a tour of the Favelas. Rio’s street art is stunning too, and then there is the Selaron steps, the tiles of which were sent to the artist, Jorge Selaron, from people from all around the world.

Escadaria Selaron

Did I mention… I loved Rio??

So here are three non-capital picks from me. What would your favourite three be? Do comment!

Thanks for reading as always, enjoy your Sunday, and… May the Journey Never End!

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