Based upon years of experience and countless miles traveled, here we’ve picked out what we consider the most romantic destinations across the South American continent. These are places with abilities to combine centuries-old traditions with modern flair – elements reflected in luxury hotels, stunning art galleries, exquisite architecture, exotic cuisine and other qualities that make these places perfect escapes for lovers.
In no special order, take a look at the seductive sites that top our list:
1. Cartagena, Colombia: A tropical flower
With a unique mix of European, African, and indigenous cultures, fantastic food, an artsy atmosphere, colonial charm, and colorful neighborhoods, Cartagena is a perfect destination for a romantic trip.
Founded just short of 500 years ago, Cartagena was a key port for Spanish ships heading home laden with riches. Though pirates plundered this oceanside city, the Spanish prevailed by building up defenses in the form of still-existing fortresses along the coast.
These days, Cartagena’s romance and charm lie within its walled historic district. Bursting with music and restaurants, travelers and tourists, lovers and other adventurous souls, you can stroll hand in hand along the quarter’s rainbow-colored cobblestone streets and through its postcard-perfect plazas. Revel in the fine dining and cafe culture for which Cartagena is famous, and then end the day with a stately horse-drawn carriage ride down bougainvillea-fringed lanes as the ocean breezes the cool off this distinctly Caribbean city. It’s sure to be one of those special experiences you’ll never forget.
2. Buenos Aires: Sensational in all senses
Dubbed the “Paris of South America” (though arguably even better than the French capital), Buenos Aires fuses old-world European charm with Latin sensuality. This means you’ll find endless opportunities to crank up the romance amid elegant architecture, fine dining, more than 300 world-class theaters, a welcoming culture, and vibrant nightlife. Remember, Buenos Aires is the birthplace of the world’s most romantic dance – Tango. The passionate dance remains a city-wide passion with worldwide fame. Experience it at one of the city’s most exclusive tango houses in which professional dancers and musicians perform while you wine and dine on what are said to be the best steaks in the world.
Lovers in Argentina’s capital can spend their days strolling through this city of neighborhoods, each one with its own distinct personality and charm. Marvel at landmarks such as the bustling Plaza de Mayo, home to the Casa Rosada and Metropolitan Cathedral, and continue on to the San Telmo neighborhood for the tango halls and street markets; then head on to the colorfully painted district of La Boca before searching for Evita’s tomb in the regal Recoleta Cemetery.
If you love to get lost in a city and simply enjoy the moment, Buenos Aires is made just for you.
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Take off to a world apart
For a once-in-a-lifetime romantic experience, the famed Galapagos Islands is another top contender. Charles Darwin first examined the ecological oddities of this remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador in 1835. Since then, these islands have enchanted love-struck travelers for many years now, as the Galapagos is one of those unique and special destinations that’s truly like no other.
Nature-loving couples will be blown away by incredible up-close encounters with wildlife, much of which is unique to the archipelago. But even more than Giant Galapagos tortoises, swimming iguanas, and sea lions at every turn, the islands’ landscapes, beaches and sunsets are out of this world as well.
While small yacht cruises offer an intimate and indulgent way to explore the islands, you’ll also find that luxury hotel retreats on land have plenty to offer for those wishing for a romantic trip that’s in some ways more flexible in this incredible island setting. In either case, the two of you will share in marveling at the diverse wildlife in daytime settings before retreating into the lap of luxury by night.
4. The ancient city of Cusco: In the shadow of Machu Picchu:
Standing high above Machu Picchu as early morning sunlight beams across the horizon is one of those singular moments you’ll want to share with someone special. The spiritual sense of being at the center of the universe with just the right person next to you will surely make this romantic getaway distinct and memorable.
But while the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is the main reason most people visit the area, the nearby city of Cusco is also a place of amazing qualities, making it much more than a jumping-off point for the famed Inca ruins. Cusco’s allure draws people from all over the world to discover its historic streets, where couples love to explore its ancient yet stunning historic architecture, cobblestone streets, and take selfies together in the picturesque central plaza. You can also eat at some of the country’s best restaurants, and travel to nearby sites including Rainbow Mountain, the Sacred Valley and, of course, the Machu Picchu Ruins.
However, since Cusco rests at an elevation of 11,154 feet (3,400 meters), for some people the high altitude can be a little bit of a bump in the road, though only the first couple of days. Even still, it’s a destination that’s well worth any hassle.
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5. Rio de Janeiro: Irresistible energy
A Brazilian city of mythical proportions, Rio captivates us with its natural beauty, its outgoing people, and its intoxicating mix of European, African, and indigenous influences. A fantasy for most travelers, Rio de Janeiro is the dream destination where you can push back in your beach chair, sip a cold fruity “caipirinha,” and even steal a furtive glance at the girl from Ipanema passing by.
With restaurants that can satiate the snobbiest patron, and a wide range of fabulous accommodations that range from luxury boutique hotels to remote beach hideaways, Rio de Janeiro is one of those experiences that forms a high-water mark for all couples who travel there.
With its tropical atmosphere and lively culture, it’s no surprise that Rio is one of the world’s great romantic cities. The city boasts an irresistible energy marked by a non-stop stream of jaw-dropping cultural activities, samba in the streets, the always-animated Copacabana Beach, iconic Sugarloaf Mountain, and the world’s biggest and most spectacular carnival, which the lucky traveler will never ever forget.
The city’s reputation as the unrivaled leading city of seduction is well-deserved, making Brazil’s most famous city a hot spot for all lovers and honeymooners. What you’re sure to discover is that any visit to Rio de Janeiro will be too short.
6. Paraty, Brazil: Laid back defined
Paraty, Brazil is a charming little town, conveniently situated halfway between the mega-cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Located away from the hustle and bustle, it’s a summer escape from the crowds.
Originally inhabited by the indigenous Guaianá people, the scenic village later became a thriving Portuguese gold port. Indeed, that Portuguese legacy is etched into the buildings’ architecture, preserving the distinct colonial design of whitewashed buildings with vibrantly colored door and window frames, and cobblestones streets that connect them.
Nowadays this colonial legacy melds with a cosmopolitan flavor provided by the multitude of artists, chefs and bohemian types who have appeared to make relaxation the order of the day. In fact, Paraty is the definition of laid back. It’s a destination where people pass their time unwinding on the beach, cycling, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking or wandering through its exquisitely preserved colonial center, recognized as a National Historic Site since 1966. This pedestrianized quarter with its quaint churches is the perfect place to explore on foot while the best beaches and untouched islets are reached by boat.
The area surrounding Paraty is backed by steep, jungled mountains plunging into an island-studded bay, making it a nature-lover’s paradise, offering some of southeastern Brazil’s most stunning coastal and mountain scenery – which says a lot about this being Brazil.
7. Mendoza, Argentina: An intoxicatingly romantic retreat
Mendoza is extraordinarily romantic and set in a beautiful and picturesque mountainous region. Sprawled at the foot of the Andean Mountain range, its soaring, snow-dusted peaks form the perfect backdrop to the endless vineyards that stretch out for mile upon mile before you.
A visit to Mendoza is therefore a surefire way to get a decadent dose of arguably Argentina’s most sought-after product: wine. It’s no exaggeration that Mendoza is Latin America’s most revered wine region, boasting some 1,500 wineries and 350,000 acres of vineyards – and counting.
A trendy city of wide, leafy avenues, atmospheric plazas and cosmopolitan cafes, Mendoza is not all about wine though; the city is also perfectly placed for jaunts into the Andes, bicycle tours and scenic horseback rides. For a slice of culture, Mendoza city is a great place to start, with a history dating back to its founding in 1561 and a clutch of museums and art galleries to dip into between languid strolls along the town’s verdant boulevards.
Where better for the two of you to experience authentic Argentinian food, wine and Andes Mountains than in one of the wine capitals of the world?
8. Punta del Este, Uruguay: Stomping grounds for the rich & famous
A hip beach resort popular with Brazil’s and Argentina’s in-crowd, you too can uncover seaside luxury on your romantic getaway in the trendy Uruguayan seaside city of Punta Del Este.
Uruguay’s most famous beach resort, Punta del Este is a glamorous city that faces the rolling South Atlantic waves. Thanks to its world-class restaurants, sophisticated resorts and swanky nightclubs, Punta del Este is often referred to as both the “St. Tropez of Uruguay” and the “Monaco of South America.” Unfortunately (or fortunately for savvy travelers), Punta del Este can also be called South America’s best-kept secret.
By day, one of the best things to do in Punta Del Este is to spend a day at one of the city’s many stunningly golden beaches. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand or take part in some watersports, there’s a beach for you. For catching waves, Brava Beach is a surfers’ paradise, as it’s home to some of the best waves in South America. Meanwhile, the more relaxed experience, Mansa beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and simply taking in stunning views. For a break from surf and sand, saddle up with a local gaucho and ride horseback through the wild plains surrounding the city.
By night, the city comes alive with a host of clubs where you can dance the night away. Make a note of La Feria de Punta del Este, an open-air club located on a pier that offers stunning views of the city skyline.
9. Quito, Ecuador: Love at the center of the world
Set high in the Andes Mountain range just minutes from the equatorial line is the charming colonial city of Quito. Its well-preserved historic center, which was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, weaves ancient history and modern life together in a unique cultural tapestry.
Make your trip even better by splurging on a stay at the Casa Gangotena Hotel, located in the heart of Quito’s historic center. From there, you can whisk yourselves away among enchanting city plazas, marveling at fine, historic architecture and opulent churches. In fact, two dozen landmark churches decorate the streets of this mountain city, all within walking easy distance of one another, so a private tour is an easy daytime activity for you and your partner to share.
For a showcase of the modern side of Quito, share visits to elegant urban parks and botanical gardens or dance until dawn, experiencing the vibrant nightlife of the Mariscal district. Though overlooked and underestimated, Quito is a place for lovers.
Conclusion: Discover where the spark of romance never dies
Traveling to South America, you’ll find a land of romance with at least nine destinations that are seductively romantic places well worth visiting. Not only does each have qualities that will bring you closer to your partner — such as good weather, amiable locals, vibrant cultures and much more — they also all provide world-class services such as swank restaurants, extravagant hotels and other stylish elements in which both you and your partner can indulge.
From the azure sky of Cartagena to the turquoise waters of the Galapagos Islands, South America offers a unique array of destinations for romantic getaways.
Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.
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