Which countries and highlights do you wish to explore? Small group tours serve up the best of the continent.
South America small group tours are an incredibly popular way to explore the continent and it’s certainly not surprising given the sheer size of the continent and a nearly endless array of highlights. Small group tours can take you from the highest peak of the stunning Andes following the footsteps of the ancient Incas to the sweltering heat of the Amazon in search of sloths, toucans and jaguars. They’ll have you cruising the magnificent Galapagos Islands and see you samba with the best in Rio de Janeiro. All in one sensational journey and all in the company of like-minded adventurers.
To see Viva's small group tours that travel across South America click here.
Read on to find the best rated top 10 highlights of small group tours in South America:
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
South America’s #1 attraction continues to reign supreme and we guess it will for many years to come. The spiritual heart of the ancient Inca Empire and an archaeological site that never fails to inspire but for its historical importance and its resplendent setting, atop a peak overlooking Peru’s Urubamba River Valley. Hikers and active explorers can reach Machu Picchu on multi-day trekking tours that challenge the body and fill the soul whilst everyone else can share in the wonders of the high-altitude citadel by taking a scenic train ride instead. It matters not how one gets to Machu Picchu, what matters is that one gets there at least once in life.
Here’s all you need to know about Walking the Inca Trail.
2. Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil
The world’s largest waterfalls and one of its most protected treasures: Iguazu is a breath-taking natural splendour and one that leaves every visitor gobsmacked. Visit Iguazu on both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides for a truly comprehensive experience and you’ll no doubt be left overawed by the immersive experience.
The Iguazu Falls isn’t just a spectacular highlight but also acts as one of South America’s best springboards – this is one dot that can easily connect all others.
Find out all there is to do at Iguazu Falls.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
A short flight from Iguazu Falls brings you to the vibrant, addictive and utterly delectable capital of Argentina. Buenos Aires is a striking city in which to spend a few days and, between the historical sightseeing in Downtown, the shopping in San Telmo, the evening tango shows and superb culinary delights, you’ll find that whatever time you spend here is never, ever, enough.
Check out all the cool things to do in Buenos Aires
4. Rio de Janiero, Brazil
On the other side of Iguazu Falls lies Rio de Janeiro on one of the most picturesque bays in the whole continent. Framed by the verdant hills of Corcovado on one side and the startling blue waters of the Atlantic on the other, Rio is a thrilling beach city in summer and fantastic metropolis to explore in winter. Rio has it all – the music, the dancing, the gourmet food, the shopping and l lathe natural splendours you could ever dream.
See why there’s so much more to Rio than meets the eye
5. Torres del Paine National Park, Argentina
On the southern tip of South America is where you’ll find the continent’s foremost hiking destination, a national park that’s defined by its breath-taking landscapes and insane concentration of wildlife. The jewel on the Torres crown and most celebrated highlight may well be the three vertiginous granite towers from where the park’s name originates but on your South America travels, you’ll find these peaks to be just the start of your awesome Patagonian adventure.
Discover Patagonia’s Best National Parks
6. Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
Patagonia, in general, is one of the best destinations for small group tours in South America and that’s because this region is one of the largest and most remote of all. Distances are considerable, infrastructure restricted and list of hot-spots mind-boggling. First there’s Torres mentioned above but the moment you discover there’s also the Perito Moreno Glacier, the awesome Lake Districts and wine-growing regions in both countries, the Chilean Fjords, the legendary Carretera Austral and Route 40 (which make for epic road trips, by the way), the migrating whales on the Valdes Peninsula and the unrivalled beauty of Tierra del Fuego, you just know this place is unmissable. If you’re looking into joining a small group tour in South America during the southern summer, Patagonia is simply a must.
Discover more about the Top 5 Small Group Tours in Patagonia
7. The Amazon, Peru
The Amazon Rainforest is South America’s premier wilderness highlight and the one no first-time traveller to the continent should miss experiencing. Luckily, it is also crazy huge and accessible from various countries (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil to start) which also makes it a convenient destination with which to play. For small group tours, your best bet is probably Peru because the country’s prime Amazonian region is easily reached from Cusco, the base town for Machu Picchu visits. Most first-time travellers on small group tours to South America will inevitably find themselves in Cusco so adding on a stint of jungle adventures in the Amazon is super easy. Plus, Peru boasts a few incredibly beautiful eco-lodges from where you can take boat tours and on-land excursions, offering a wide array of experiences for everyone, of any age.
A trip to the Amazon rates as one of South America’s Most EPIC Journeys
8. Lake Titicaca, Peru
The highest navigable lake in the world straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia and is a sight to behold. On Lake Titicaca, you’ll meet indigenous groups who have been living on floating reed islands for hundreds of years and get a glimpse of their fascinating way of life. The lake itself is drop-dead-gorgeous, framed by snow-capped Andean peaks and dotted by picturesque islands where you can hike to your heart’s content. The best town from where to explore the lake is Puno, in Peru, just a bus ride away from Cusco. The ride may take a whole day but is amazing, offering splendid Andean views and guiding you past sleepy mountainous villages and celebrated Inca archaeological sites which you can stop and visit. This is certainly one ride that’s all about the journey, not just the destination.
See why Lake Titicaca is one of the Top 10 Experiences in South America that’s not to be missed
9. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The wildlife capital of South America is often rated the best place in the world for up-close animal encounters. This cluster of volcanic isles lie off the coast of Ecuador and is inhabited by some of the most unique creatures on our planet. Here, you get to waddle with sea lions and swim with seals, bask in the sun with giant turtles and scuttle over rocks with iguanas and rainbow-hued crabs. The best way to explore the Galapagos is via small ship cruise and itineraries abound.
Read more – how to get the most of your visit to the Galapagos
10. Discover and experience more!
The undisputed unsung highlight of small group tours in South America is the sheer reward of the experience when compared with independent travel. On small group tours, you see more in less time, you don’t have to worry about the headache-inducing logistics of your journey, the bookings and reservations, the planning of a smooth and logical itinerary as well as the day-to-day issues that always arise when you’re travelling in a less-developed or remote destination. We’ve written at length about small group tours being a genius way to discover Patagonia yet fact is they are a genius way to explore South America, in general. Small group tours are safe, fun, insanely convenient but also economical, potentially saving you a small fortune. When resources a pulled and activities, flights, cruises, transport and accommodation bookings are made for small groups, oftentimes special rates apply so you end up spending less.
All our Small Group Tours of South America are led by knowledgeable guides and experience, professional drivers. These guys are the true highlight of all our tours, helping turn people’s dreams into unforgettable adventures. They – together with our back up logistical team – take care of everything from the moment you land until you’re ready to go home, full of awe-inspiring wonder and a ton of memories. At Viva Expeditions, we work with the best local guides and use quality accommodation to ensure you have all the comfort you need, offering both overland small group tours with our own private all-terrain truck (see what to expect) as well as fly+drive small group tours that allow you to explore further in less time. Fly between the main highlights and explore by road once there – a genius way to squeeze as much out of your South America travel as you can.
Inspired yet? See our list of small group tours in South America and give us a call or write us a message by clicking on the Contact tab on the top right-hand corner of this page.