South America can mean many different things to different people. Some venture to the land of the gaucho, some retrace the steps of the ancient Inca Empire, some dine, shop, and sightsee, and others stroll down narrow lanes in romantic colonial towns; for others, they enjoy the world's best summer snow skiing in June, July, and August.
Argentina: "The Land of the Gaucho"; waterfalls, Andean peaks, prairies, frozen Antarctica. Recommended highlights: Buenos Aires (the capital); Plaza De Mayo; Iguazu Falls; Patagonia.
Brazil: the largest country in South America; tropical lushness of the Amazon region; some of the best beaches in the world. Recommended highlights: Rio de Janeiro (world's famous beaches: Copacabana & Ipanema); San Paulo; Manaus; Brasilia (the only city in the world that has no stoplights).
Chile: Offers ski slopes with an active volcano, sailing, rafting. Recommended highlights: Santiago; The Lake district; Portillo.
Ecuador: a land of geographic diversity. Recommended highlights: Quito (snow capped mountains); The Galapagos Islands (these remote volcanic islands straddle the equator--home of exotic wildlife).
Peru: Recommended highlights: Cuzco (Peru's leading attraction); Machu Picchu, Iquitos (the main city in the jungle region of Peru).
Venezuela: The wealthiest country in South America, offering Andean mountain trails, Caribbean beaches, Amazonian jungle adventures. Recommended highlights: Caracas; National Pantheon; Angel Falls (world's highest waterfall); Caribbean beach resorts.