Family-Friendly Destinations in South America
When planning your next family vacation, South America may not be the first continent you think to explore. With a rapidly changing image and increased safety throughout multiple countries, Latin America offers exciting adventures suitable for all the family. From ancient monuments to national parks, tranquil beaches to lively wildlife, South America is the perfect combination of climate and culture. We’ve narrowed down the best destinations to ensure your family holiday is a memory you’ll cherish forever.
One of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is guaranteed to impress the kids, as well as provide great exercise for the whole family. Step back in time to see the ancient Inca city perched high in the Andes. The ascending hike is well worth the striking greenery, maze-like walls, and a cloudy backdrop — not to mention the incredible photo opportunity at the summit. If your little ones aren’t up to the climb, shuttle buses are available to drop you at the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Once at the top, you’re sure to encounter some llamas as you wander around. The shaggy animals are adapted to living at high altitudes and are generally friendly, just watch out for any surprise spitting! Guided tours of the citadel are available or you can explore solo. Remember to bring plenty of water and snacks with you, and of course, the camera!
- Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
One of the most biodiverse places on Earth, this group of volcanic islands quite literally overflows with plants and wildlife. Found in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a flurry of colors and sounds. Take the budding biologists in your family to a real-life fantasy island, packed with sea lions, tortoises, penguins, iguanas, exotic birds, and much more. It’s no surprise that the islands were a source of inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Learn all about his findings at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz. The station is still used as a base for scientific research and conservation projects today. When you’re suitably scienced-up, unwind by going kayaking to get up-close with animals, or take a bike ride along the golden sand beaches. Then, in the evening sun, venture along the volcanic rocks and among prickly cacti.
Due to the vast size of the islands, as well as the numerous terrains and ecosystems, a trip to the Galápagos will entail substantial travel by boat. Most kids will love donning a sailor hat and bobbing on the waves, but if your children get motion sickness, consider booking a land-based tour instead.
Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes, Chile’s capital city is a blend of colonial and cosmopolitan living, and because of the cultural importance of family, it is especially welcoming to children. Discover something new at one of the museums. Climb aboard vintage locomotives at the Railway Museum, for fossils and a whale skeleton, check out the National Museum of Natural History, or get interactive with physics at the Museum of Science and Technology.
When you’ve had your fill of culture, take the tram up to Cerro San Cristobal. The hill towers over Santiago, complete with a 45 ft, white statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción, offering stunning panoramic views of the busy city below. Prepare a picnic beforehand and enjoy the clear sights in the sunshine. Afterwards, once you’ve digested, swing to your heart’s content in Santiago’s biggest public park, Plaza Gabriela Mistral. Descending down the hill doesn’t have to mean home time, there’s also a Japanese garden and zoo to make your special day out last a little bit longer.
Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires is a multicolored haven for family activities. The city’s energy is contagious. Expect days of excitement and laughter as you delve into Porteño lifestyle. Parque de la Costa is an amusement park bursting with rides for all family members. From roller coasters to a climbing wall, laser quest to a ferris wheel, this park has it all. Don’t forget your swimsuit! Nobody leaves the water rapids dry!
Football (known as fútbol) is huge in South American culture. Get a taste of the passion for the sport at the Boca Juniors Museum, where visitors can learn about one of the most famous teams in Argentina. Take a tour of the yellow and blue La Bombonera Stadium and picture the roaring crowds and confetti of match day. Tours are given in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
To close the day, spend some time gazing at the stars from the dome-shaped planetarium. The cool building promotes all things astrological, giving kids the chance to look out of powerful microscopes, marvel at the technology used to explore outer space. Visitors can even experience their own journey through space, with virtual reality glasses propelling them into the Milky Way. The sky really isn’t the limit!
And of course, no family vacation would be complete without ice cream. Freddo is a renowned heladeria (ice cream shop) with huge portions fit for a family deserving a treat. Ask for “dulce de leche” — the caramel-like flavor is popular in South America and will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth.