I decided to write a post like this because when I started planning our big South America trip, I quickly became overwhelmed. I was finding lists that said “The top 27 places to see in South America…” and I felt like it was too much information to give to someone. I really wanted to simplify this list for first timers heading to South America and give places I loved and that I think are worthwhile. I want to see absolutely everything and I know there are a lot of people like me so here is a starting point for you all.

On our 8 week South America trip we started with Chile, and spent a lot of time there because Lyle served his mission in parts of Chile and heading there was the main purpose of our trip. I loved Chile and our itinerary but I wanted to put things in order of what I loved the most and where I think you should start.

  1. Machu Picchu 

This is the easiest decision I have ever made for a #1. No South America list is complete without it. Honestly it is one of our top destinations in the whole world. We did a Peru trip prior to our most recent South America trip and we loved every bit of it. I can also say it is the best world wonder we have been too and probably will ever go to (Petra is the only one I think will give it a run for it’s money. For reference, we’ve been to 4.). We spent two days there and I still would love to go back someday. It is the perfect mix of history and adventure and nature all rolled into one. I would see this sooner rather than later before all the travel restrictions. I blogged about our trip here if you’re headed there.

2. Rio de Janiero, Brazil

One of my top 5 cities in the whole world, and definitely my #1 in South America, is Rio. I will save you from the whole book I could write about this place and narrow it down a bit. It has the city and the beaches and the most amazing food (Lyle and I both agree it had the best food out of anywhere we’ve been) all wrapped into one. In some of the smaller towns I would get bored but in Rio I didn’t have enough time for all the things we wanted to do. We are already talking about trying to get out there for Carnival or New Years when they have a big celebration. My post about this is coming soon and I will link it here for those of you planning a trip to Brazil!

3. Banos, Ecuador

Banos was a little adventurous town that was an absolute dream. The list of things to do was endless and the views were beautiful. Even writing this now makes me miss it so much. We stayed in this town for a while even though some people just pop in and out and we quickly memorized our favorite breakfast place where we would have the same waiter and the same exact order (because it was BOMB) and it felt like our little home. This is where la casa del arboles is and la ruta de cascadas were and both were easily some of the highlights of the trip. Ecuador in general was the cheapest country we visited and so were all the activities which might help you make some decisions as well. We also went to Quito and Guayaquil but if you can only go to one place in Ecuador I highly recommend this place.

4. Easter Island

Easter Island is the only post I have finished from our trip because I was so excited to write about it…so hopefully that shows you how much I loved our time there. The only reason it isn’t number two on this list is because it is definitely out of the way and the only place to fly out of in South America is Santiago Chile. Even though getting there can be a bit of a hassle it was the biggest and best surprise of the trip. I had no idea just how much I would fall in love with it. Before we even left we were talking about bringing our future nuggets there and loving the perfect mix of relaxation and history and yummy food and adventure (do you see a pattern?! haha). It is like Hawaii but a million times smaller and way less crowded which is a huge appeal of mine. We had these amazing places all to ourselves at times. If you are sold and want to plan a trip right now, check out my post here.

5. Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina Side

Argentina Side:Brazil Side:

When we started planning our trip, we each picked a couple places that we really wanted to see and this place was one of mine. It is one of the natural wonders of the world and it is truly amazing! We took a flight from Buenos Aires up to the IGR airport and spent time on the Argentine side first before heading to the Brazil side. Both sides are completely different but really cool in their own way. The Brazil side definitely seems more crowded because it has less boardwalk but it has views that show more of the waterfall. The Argentine side you get closer and it’s less crowded and has tons of different angles. I liked the feel of the Argentine side best honestly and the Coatis were not to be missed! They helped to make the experience.

6. Torres Del Paine

This is when the list started getting harder to put together. My top 5 are solid and I love these next ones but they could honestly go in any order. Torres Del Paine was beautiful and breathtaking and just as great as everything else but there are definitely some things that make it frustrating. I don’t put this as number one because it is really out of the way which means more money and more time allotted for this trip (to fly down and back)  and there isn’t much to do in the small town outside of Torres. Also, I think you can pay to go into the park but I really would recommend this to people who love to hike and are in shape because the hikes aren’t easy. There are some pretty simple walks you can do, but to do some of the long hikes you really need to be in shape. For real though, people were taking the hikes very seriously and they would look at Lyle in his jeans and make comments and I would turn to them and say “we are from Utah!” haha which obviously meant we were experienced hikers of course and jeans or no jeans we were going to crush everyone going up the mountain. (I am a very fast and competitive hiker & I feel bad for Lyle.)

7. Termas Geometricas

The top experience from this trip just might be the time we spent at these hot springs. They are a hidden gem! I haven’t seen this place on many lists and I think its just because it’s in the middle of Chile and not too many people know about them. We road tripped down the coast of Chile through volcanoes and beautiful lakes and little towns and I think the journey to get here is part of the magic. We drove up this mountain for what seemed like forever and it was evening and there was maybe 10 people? But there are so many hot pots that you can have one all to yourself and you feel like you are in the jungle. The whole mood of it is magical and romantic. The stars shine so bright and the pathways light up with little lights and I will never forget our time here. Ever. Oh and driving down we stopped to get out and look at the most amazing stars I have ever seen in my entire life. Okay thats it, I will never get over this place. I have more dreamy pictures of this place I will share when I post about it, if my 10 star review hasn’t sealed the deal for you already.

8. Perito Moreno Glacier

This glacier was SO COOL. I have never seen anything like it in my whole life. If you are down in the Chilean Patagonia you can get over to Argentina where the Perito Moreno glacier is pretty easily. I loved this little town a lot more than the one outside Torres Del Paine. We did this in a tour and it was perfect! I don’t typically vouch for tours but the lunch was amazing, you can KAYAK out to the glacier and the sound you hear when the ice is cracking and breaking is so cool. Also, you have to eat at Isabel’s that has the BEST BREAD IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I told our server that in spanish and she laughed, but it’s true. Go try it.

9. Cuzco, Peru

I don’t necessarily love a lot of the big towns in South America that everyone tells you to visit, but I am glad that I do visit them. Buenos Aires, Quito, Lima and Santiago are all just okay because they seem pretty similar to other cities that I have been. I really liked Cuzco though because of the amazing architecture, all the culture, and all the cool things there was to see and do. I love stopping and playing with all the alpacas and baby llamas and witnessing the women carry the babies on their back was so cool. (Yet another reason to head out to Peru.)

***10. Galapagos Islands

Okay okay, I know I haven’t been here yet but hear me out. We both wanted to go here so badly and every single person we ran into said skip everything else on your itinerary and go here instead. Ringing endorsements were coming at us from everyone. I know 100% that once we go here, it will make it in my top 3. I love animals and nature and I am dying to go here. We really want to do it right though and see all of it in the best way so we are saving for a trip here now. I’ve done lots of research and I know it will be worth the wait and some things you gotta do the best way.

I wanted to also add a couple other places that I think could make it on this list that we haven’t been too. Lake Titicaca, the salt flats and biking the death road in Bolivia, Colombia, taking a boat ride through the Amazon and Angel Falls in Venezuela are some places we want to go and see. I know myself pretty well and I am very excited about these places. Venezuela is very dangerous and I don’t know if that will ever happen. Also, when we were choosing between Ecuador and Bolivia, Bolivia did not get a ringing endorsement from any of the travelers that we met. I still plan on going there to make my own decision but I am so happy we chose Ecuador! When we head back to do the Galapagos Islands, we plan on knocking off the rest of our South America list. Hope this helps and gets you excited to head to South America. It really is so underrated and has so many amazing places.

XO, Cait

Easter Island Itinerary

Getting There

Oh man, Easter Island is dreamyyy guys. When we were planning our trip to South America we casually brought up the idea of going here but with the flight pricing it didn’t seem very realistic. Lyle wanted to go so bad and he checked flights every single day we were traveling. They were about $1,000 a piece when we were looking, so yeah, too much for the trip we already had planned. We did some research and bought our tickets off the Chilean website. We purchased them off which it says is just for locals but after extensive research we realized that really anyone can buy off it and we got our flights for around $300 roundtrip. If you are in South America and trying to do it last minute you can use google flights. Being flexible is the key to cheap travel honestly. We just checked and roundtrip flights are $189 right now. Santiago only does two flights a day to Easter Island and Tahiti flies in once a week. It was about a 5 hour flight to Easter Island so you want to go for at least 4 days. I think 4-5 days is perfect. The island can be pretty expensive to stay on so keep that in mind when planning (food, lodging, etc.).

I highly recommend swinging it if you can though. It was one of the highlights of our trip and I’ve never seen anywhere like it. It had all the beauty of Hawaii but it is significantly more remote. The best months to go are between October and February when it is the driest. We went in January when it is Summer in Chile. The island is so small that you can get around the Island in an hour or so. I am sharing a ton of pictures from our trip and I broke it down on what to do, need to knows and where to stay to hopefully make your trip a little bit easier. If there is something I didn’t cover then feel free to comment or message me.

Where to Stay

I LOVED where we stayed. From walking around and exploring in general, I saw lots of beautiful places that you could stay honestly. The best part about our place though, was that it was very close to the main street, but you didn’t feel that you were. A lot of the places are right of the road but this place feels so remote. We would sit on our front porch and we just looked at an empty field. The owners had a horse, a couple dogs, some chickens and it just felt like a private, beautiful ranch. We rented just one room but no one else was staying there so we had so much privacy. There are so many accommodations on the island but it is so remote so I bet it is like this a lot which is a huge bonus! If you have a bigger group this place is perfect for your whole family. There is a huge main kitchen that you can cook your own meals in with a long table to fit everyone. The hosts went above and beyond too. They picked us up from the airport with leis, brought us fresh fruit for breakfast one morning, answered any questions we had and even offered to take us up to Anakena Beach one afternoon for free as part of our stay. We didn’t end up taking advantage of this because we rented a car but for those who don’t it is so convenient.

We used Airbnb for lodging on Easter Island.

Here’s the link:

What to do

Go to the post office.

I typically would not tell you to do this on any of your trips haha but this is the most remote post office in the world! You have to send postcards to your family and more importantly get the Easter Island stamp for your passport! If you are a traveler, you get the addiction to getting your passport stamped. We bought postcards on the main street and sent them like 4 weeks ago and they still aren’t here yet but I am excited for when they finally get here.Spend the day, or several, at Anakena Beach

THIS BEACH IS UNREAL. It is teeny tiny but the island is remote so you don’t really need much. Down where everyone stays, there are little beach areas but this place is up North and you will want to plan to spend the whole day here. The little huts are restaurants that serve drinks and food and all of it is amazing. The fresh juices were like $8 a piece I think. I would pack your own snacks and things as well so you don’t have to eat there all day. If you aren’t a beach person though, you will want to come up here just to see the Moai alone. The waves were pretty intense when we were there but we had so much fun playing in them!

See a Traditional Rapa Nui Show

There are several options but we asked a few locals which one was the best and it was unanimous. I knew it was legit when they said to pass on the dinner beforehand combo because you can find better food elsewhere. I trusted her honesty haha. I think it was $15-$20 per person and I suggest booking early because they assign seats based off of when you sign up so we had really good seats. When you get into the island you can book for a couple days later to see it. It is in a really central location on the main street so it isn’t out of the way. It was really entertaining and we had a lot of fun. The name is Varua Ora. They even paint your face before if you’d like.Try Po’e

I could eat this stuff all day, every day. It is basically like a banana bread type treat but all of them are different looking. Every morning on the main street people sell things and they sell this where it looks like cake but this one was from the local ice cream shop on the main street. The name is Mahute Heladeria. I can’t vouch for the ice cream but I am glad I gave this a try. I went back the next day though and they were sold out, so keep it mind that it goes fast! Try all the fresh juices, po’e and fresh seafood that you can! We had some amazing food on the island. 

Visit the crater at Rano Kau

There are two craters are on the island. The Rano Kau and the Rano Raraku. The Rano Kau you can visit as much as you want but the Raraku you can only visit once. They will turn you away from that one if it is wet and rainy too because it can be dangerous. The views on the way up to Rano Kau are beautiful and it is a very biodiverse ecosystem down in it now. At the top is another spot where you can go in and see more maori statues. The history behind the island is so cool and I loved seeing the cliffs where the men would climb up and compete in the Birdman Competition.
Take a selfie with the Maori at the Rano Raraku

This is probably my favorite spot because you can get so close to so many of the Maori statutes. I loved seeing all the detail and walking around here. To the left you go to the other crater and then to the right there is a pathway that weaves around all the maori statues.

^ This beautiful view of Ahu Tongariki is from Rano Raraku. It is one of my favorite photos.

Go Horseback riding on the island

One of my favorite things on the island was all the wild horses. They are beautiful and there were tons of babies there. Close to Anakena beach there is a place where you can go horseback riding and the island is a beautiful place to do so.

Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

This is THE spot to see the moari statues. It is the one we’ve dreamed about seeing and it was magical. When we first got there it looked as though a storm was rolling in and it did. But we waited it out and then it was beautiful out. We went here more than once for pictures and I was just in awe. From the wild horses roaming around to how we completely had it to ourselves at times! People don’t typically wait here long so just wait it out for the solitude that it brings to see it without anyone else. We didn’t end up getting up early to see it at sunrise but I hear its beautiful. Sorry for the picture overload.

  This is why arm workouts are important. ^ Visit the beautiful church on the island

We passed by this beautiful church on the way into town every morning and it is so ornate and beautiful!

Check off all the different Moai on your list

There is only one Moai statue on the island with his eyes open and one spot where the Moai face the ocean. There are Moai that have fallen over and they are all over the island. I am glad we saved the statues at Ahu Tongariki after we had seen a couple other spots because it all led up to those. Rent a car to explore the island

It was about $50 for a manual car so I really hope you can drive one of those because an automatic was double that. Lyle actually taught me how to drive manual on the island which was really fun. I had initially wanted to hire a four wheeler but I am glad we didn’t because there were some rain showers when we were there and it was just so easy when we went up North to the beach and taking all of our things and the crazy weather so that is something to consider. There are tons of car rental places all over the main street. They were so helpful in giving us a map and they even circled all the places to see. We asked tons of questions too. You won’t use much gas either because the island is so small. This is a great way to see every piece of the island! I don’t recommend tours because we loved stopped whenever we wanted and not being rushed anywhere.

  For Food I don’t think you can go wrong. We ate at Izakaya Kotaro which is a beautiful and unique restaurant. It was a really cool experience because it is a little family owned business and the chef is amazing and comes up and talks to you and it is all really personal. The food was really good but you need to make reservations. We just drove up during the day and did it. It is really small right now because they are doing some renovations but it is EXPENSIVE. We didn’t know just how. I’m talking like $100 for our dinner. Whoops. Te Moana and Tia Berta for empanadas are some others. Honestly everywhere we looked seemed good!

Catch a sunset 

Before I went I read about all the places you can see the sunset. Honestly, anywhere along the SouthWest coast is perfect. You can see it from anywhere along the water and it is beautiful. There are benches and spots to lay out a blanket on the grass. You can observe it from all the Moai on the coastline too which is such a cool experience.


  • THE SUN IS HOT. I know this may seem like common sense but I’m talking INTENSE. When we went to the beach we both applied sunscreen consistently the whole time we were there and still fried. The first day that was overcast and cloudy, Lyle got his arms burnt. We used SPF 30 I think and I would do triple that. Seriously.
  • You need a parks pass. I had no idea about this beforehand so obviously I did terrible research haha. It was $60 per person and $20 for Chileans I think. This allowed us to get into all the areas with the Moai statues. They stamp your entrance fee too so there is no way getting around it. That in itself is a really cool souvenir and it makes it  so you see what areas you haven’t seen yet. Between this and our map we made sure we saw everything. There is a HUGE line at the airport where people are getting this but you can just leave and go to the office in town where we waited 5 minutes tops. It will save you time if you aren’t the first ones off the plane. Ask directions, people will help you.
  • They use Chilean pesos. We downloaded the app Units plus (for free!) which helps you convert prices into US dollars before we bought anything (except the juices haha) This is important: YOU CAN USE DOLLARS BUT YOU WILL PAY MORE. This is because of the exchange rate and every dollar counts on vacation.
  • There is so much to do!! At times it can feel kind of repetitive because you’re like oh, another Moai but they are all so unique and so are the stories and locations and history of them. Some other things you can do are stargazing, scubadiving with the fake Moai from a movie, swim with the turtles at Hanga Roa Harbour, or explore some of the amazing underground caves that cover the island and more.
  • Before you go research the Moai. It makes it so much more exciting to know the history of them. The complete Guide to Easter Island by Shawn McLaughlin was rated highly and I am actually ordering it! One of the locals told us to read Descubriendo Isla De Pascua by James Grant-Peterkin is the best but I can only find it in Spanish. This will save you money on not needing a tour and you can do a self guided one, once on the island.

I will forever cherish our time on the island. I can’t believe it almost didn’t happen. My favorite part of the day were my morning runs along the West side of the island right by the water. I would see all the locals playing soccer and get to meet all the friendly stray dogs. I would take food from dinner and feed them every time. I loved one dog that limped in particular and I so badly wished we could bring him back with us. The kindness of the locals here was so strong. We were pulling out of a spot one day and one stopped traffic for us so we could get out. Another day a man showed Lyle to the bank and talked to us the whole way. Everyone was so kind and I hope this is a place we get to go back to someday.

XO, Cait