The first thing we did when we booked our flight to South America was to jump around the room giggling like maniacs. When we finally calmed down after 2.5 hours, the 2nd thing I did was to read everything I could about the best national parks in South America. I knew close to nothing about this colourful land; but I suspected beauty in all shapes and forms on this vast continent.

And really, there is.

After travelling there for almost a year, we’re putting together here our own top list of South American national parks. We didn’t have the chance to visit them all, unfortunately; but we saw a fair amount and met travellers who told us the most fantastic tales.

This list includes the big names, that should be visited at least once in a lifetime; but also off-the-beaten track national parks where you can enjoy a bit of solitude. They range from rain forests to steppes, from mountain ranges to deserts, and include a fair amount of waterfalls. This handy guide is just perfect for outdoor enthusiasts!

Jump to our favourite national parks in:
Chile  |  Argentina  |  Brazil
Colombia  |  Ecuador
Peru  |  Bolivia  |  Venezuela

How many national parks are there in South America?

With more than 300 national parks throughout South America, it’s very easy to bump into a gorgeous piece of nature while travelling. In fact, the sheer idea of hopping from national park to national park makes me feel extremely adventurous and healthy; if that’s your thing, it’s definitely doable.

We’ve selected here only national parks, or protected areas that don’t have that status but deserve all our attention.

All entrance prices are as of March 2020, except where specifically indicated.

National parks in Chile

Both Chile and Argentina are most famous for the fantastic Patagonia region in the southern part of South America; that’s the area around the southern Andes mountain range.

Patagonia resonates as an adventure-filled, if not desolate, no-man’s land in the imagination of those who have never visited it; and as a manifold land with the most gorgeous winter landscapes for those who’ve had that chance. But Chilean national parks are not all in Patagonia – and they are very varied, as we will see.

  • Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine, one of the most famous national parks in South America
Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Source: Pixabay

Well, one of the most popular national parks in Chile and in all of South and Central America is in Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is home to sky-high mountains (among which the iconic 3-finger-shaped peak that gave its name), fjords, crystal-blue icebergs that alternate glaciers and windswept grasslands where wildlife such as guanacos freely roam.

It’s easy to visit in the sense that there’s very good infrastructure built around it. The temperatures remain low all year round, so prepare with warm clothes.

Best time to goOctober to April (both October and April are shoulder seasons)
Entrance Price21,000 CLP (23 EUR / 25 USD)
Key features
  • Popular national park, you won’t be alone
  • Possible to hike independently, without a guide
  • Various day-hikes and multi-day treks, like the famous W and O treks
  • Nearest cities: Puerto Natales
  • What you’ll see: glaciers, snowy peaks, grassland, guanacos
  • Chiloé National Park

Chiloe National Park
The coastal ecosystem in Chiloe National Park. And the beach cows.

This small national park is situated on the island of Chiloé, in the southern Los Lagos district of Chile. Although it’s a small area compared to the other South American national parks, it has a very varied wetland landscape, with dense rainforest, swamps, peat bogs and coastal dunes.

You can either visit it as a day trip from Castro, or bring your own tent to stay overnight. For the adventurous, there’s an unmissable coastal 2-day hike, which leads through almost untouched nature.

Chiloé island is the Chilean tip of our heart; you can read about it and this marvellous national park in our post about it.

Best time to go Between November and March (November and March are shoulder seasons)
Entrance Price 5000 CLP (5.5 EUR / 6 USD)
Key features
  • Various short trails and a 2-day hike to the coast
  • Main part well organised, with boardwalks and info panels
  • Nearest city: Castro
  • You’ll see: varied landscape of wetland
  • Lauca National Park

Lauca National Park in Chile
Grazing alpacas at 4000m in the Lauca National Park. Source: Wiki Commons

In the north of Chile, Lauca National Park seems to be one of those parks that are super remote, hard to get to, but incredibly satisfying. Imagine a piece of marshland surrounded with volcanoes and carpeted with golden grass. There are alpacas and guanacos (both from the llama family) grazing around but you’re the only human. It feels like becoming one with nature.

I love this feeling! But unfortunately it was too remote for us to reach without a car; it would have taken too much effort, time and money to get there with public transportation. Accommodation is sparse too, so do your research thoroughly before you go; or better yet, take a tent with you.

Best time to go From March to September is the least rainfall
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Various day-hikes
  • High altitude, needs acclimatisation and warm clothes
  • Very remote, difficult to reach, accommodation limited
  • Nearest town: Arica
  • You’ll see: snowy volcanoes, grassland, alpaca and guanacos

National parks in Argentina

When it comes to national parks in Latin America, Argentina is the other big blast besides Chile. To us, Argentinian national parks looked even lovelier than the Chilean ones. Why? Because they were mostly free!

This amazing country doesn’t only host surreal Patagonia in the Andes mountains, but also the world’s biggest waterfall and the highest mountain in America. If I opted for a completely outdoorsy type of trip, Argentina would be the perfect country. It’s vast, but it’s got many extremes, making national-park hopping there a source of constant discovery.

  • Nahuel Huapi National Park

Circuito Chico hike in Nahuel Huapi National Park
Circuito Chico hike in Nahuel Huapi National Park.

In Northern Patagonia awaits the beautiful ‘Lake District’, housing the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Given the name, you can expect crystal-clear lakes meeting the blue sky around snow-capped mountains. It is such a mesmerising place that many Argentinians have moved to this area from all around the country.

The Nahuel Huapi is a very accessible national park offering a wide range of hiking possibilities and outdoor activities. We’ve declared our love for this area and collected the best hikes (day-hikes and multi-day hikes) around Bariloche.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Various day- and multi-day hikes
  • Easy to get around and to reach trail heads
  • Activities: hiking, skiing, many watersports
  • Nearest town: Bariloche
  • You’ll see: pine trees & deep-blue lakes at the feet of snow-capped mountains
  • Los Glaciares National Park

Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park
Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. Soure: Pixabay

Threading further into the wild wild Patagonia Argentina, we find the Los Glaciares National Park. This magnificent area was declared “world heritage” by the UNESCO in 1981. We’re very happy that such natural marvels are being protected.

You can look forward to a gorgeous winter scenery with snowy mountains, blue lakes and glaciers. Perito Moreno glacier and Mount Fitz Roy are the big names here, and in general it’s a very popular national park, so don’t expect to be alone. If you prefer to view the glaciers without hiking, you can do that on a viewing platform with zero trekking. Otherwise, go independently on a multi-day hike.

Best time to go Summer season is from September to April
Entrance Price 500 ARS (7.3 EUR / 8 USD)
Key features
  • Multi-day hikes, day trips to see the glacier
  • Popular national park
  • Nearest cities: El Chalten, El Calafate
  • You’ll see: snowcapped mountains, glaciers
  • Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego National Park
Aerial view of the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Source: Wiki Commons

The remote island at the southernmost point of the continent is called Tierra del Fuego (“land of fire”). But instead of fire, you’ll experience a lot of cold wind.

Nevertheless, this remote and unique region hosts a national park where you can explore a sub-antarctic forest, numerous lakes and waterfalls! Male sure you have a good wind-stopper jacket and a lot of layers.

Best time to go From end of October to April, otherwise it can be difficult due to the amount of snow
Entrance Ticket 560 ARS (8 EUR / 9 USD)
Key features
  • Day- and multi-day hikes
  • A lot of wind and cold
  • Nearest city: Ushuaia
  • You’ll see: lakes, waterfalls, forest
  • Aconcagua Provincial Park

Mules hiking Aconcagua Argentina
More ascends in a beautiful landscape at the second part of the hike. Mules carrying food and equipment to the top.

This is for us another important natural attraction, even though it’s not a national, but a provincial park. The Aconcagua park that houses no less than the highest mountain in the Americas. And thus, its picture made it to our cover on our home page!

Although the hike to the top A.K.A. conquering the mountain takes 7 days and is not very technical, hikers need to go with a pre-arranged guide from a trekking company. But good news for those who are not ready for such a hike; they can still enjoy the natural park and get a sneak peek of the peak on a day trip to the Aconcagua.

Best time to go Summer season is between November and April
Entrance Price Depending on the length of the hike. Day ticket 1500 ARS (22 EUR / 23.5 USD)
Key features
  • Day-hikes in the park, 3-day hike, 7-day hike
  • High altitude: acclimatisation is necessary
  • Nearest city: Mendoza
  • You’ll see: Aconcagua peak in the distance, stony landscape, mountains

National parks in Brazil

Brazil is the biggest country in South America. With a territory bigger than Australia, it boasts a wide array of national parks, from rain forest to coast to wetland. Together with Argentina, Brazil co-hosts the amazing Iguaçu Falls (Iguazú in Spanish) in the southwest of the country.

  • Chapada Diamantina National Park

    Beautiful Cachoeira do Sossego in Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil
    Cachoeira do Sossego in Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil

Chapada“, as it’s often referred to, is huge. In fact, it’s one of the biggest national parks in South America, with a varied landscape organised around a plateau bounded by cliffs. But it’s far less visited than popular places like Lençóis Maranhenses or Iguaçu.

Being in the east of the country, the climate is always pleasant, so it’s an ideal place to go for multi-day hikes. Lençois is one of the few popular towns around Chapada, a good base for day-trips into the park.

We’ve written about our stunning and adventurous day hike in Chapada Diamantina.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Many day- and multi-day hikes
  • Nearest town: Salvador de Bahia
  • You’ll see: dense Atlantic forest, swimming caves, numerous beautiful waterfalls
  • Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

River going through the dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
River of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. Source: Wiki Commons

Not to be confused with the town near Chapada, this Lençóis is on the northern coast of the country. This fascinating national park has vast expanses of white sand dunes and mirroring natural pools of blue-green water between the dunes in certain times of the year.

If you like exploring off-the-beaten paths, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a good choice.

Best time to go June – September, when the sun is not too strong & the pools are full of water
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Bring your swimming suit
  • Nearest town: São Luís
  • You’ll see: big pools of water among rolling sand dunes
  • Iguaçú National Park

Iguazu waterfall distant view from the Argentine side
Majestic Iguaçu Falls from the Argentinian side

When many of us think of majestic nature in South America, we instantly think of the Iguaçú Falls, the world’s largest waterfall embedded into wild Atlantic forest.

Iguaçú (in Portuguese; Iguazú in Spanish) are situated at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and can be observed from both countries. Both of them have built a modern viewing platform around it, and they offer a very different view, so make sure you see it from both sides.

Spoiler: the power of nature, condensed in almost 13,000 m³ water falling into the abyss beneath is truly breathtaking! Iguazú National Park opened in 1939 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price 59 RS (11 EUR / 11.5 USD)
Key features
  • Visit from both Brazilian and Argentine side
  • Very popular national park; only short walks on the Argentinian side
  • Nearest town: Foz do Iguaçú
  • You’ll see: impressive waterfalls, animated wildlife despite the amount of tourism

National parks in Colombia

Colombia has recently been declared safe enough to let tourism flow in. That’s fortunate for us outdoorsy travellers, because there’s plenty to see and hike in the country. Our selection ranges from tropical rainforest beaches to fascinating colourful waters.

  • Tayrona National Park

Wild beach of Tayrona Park

The Tayrona Park encompasses the most amazing beaches we’ve come across on the continent. So it’s a very much sought-after destination when it comes to South American national parks. It’s part of the wider Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park in the north of Colombia.

The area is conserved by local indigenous tribes, and due to the all-year-round hot (and sweaty) climate, and the relaxed atmosphere (=lying on the beach) it attracts a wide range of visitors. Outdoor enthusiasts trek through the lush palm forest, and day visitors soak in its crystal-clear waters.

We had a memorable camping trip in Tayrona Park that we’ve written about.

Best time to go All year-round, except January when the park is closed (check the exact dates ahead)
Entrance Cost 66,500 COP (15 EUR / 16 USD)
Key features
  • Very popular national park
  • Nearest city: Santa Marta
  • You’ll see: untouched beaches with white sand, crystal clear water & indigenous communities
  • Serranía de la Macarena National Park (“Caño Cristales”)

Colourful river in one of the most beautiful national parks in South America
How many colours can you count in Caño Cristales? Source: Wiki Commons

If you haven’t seen a river of rainbow-coloured water (yes, you read it right!), then Serranía de la Macarena National Park in the centre of Colombia should be on your list. The red, yellow, green, blue and black coloured Caño Cristales (also called the “River of Five Colors”) has a particular plant in the riverbed that causes this colour. The area is at the Andean foothills of the Amazon rain forest and thus gathers multiple ecosystems.

Although Caño Cristales river is the main attraction in this very special South American national park, there are also waterfalls and a varied wildlife. 

Best time to goFrom the end of June until the end of November to see the rainbow river
Entrance Price 53,500 COP (12 EUR / 13 USD)
Key features
  • Very difficult and long to get there overland, most people take a plane from Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín or Cali
  • yellow fever vaccine necessary, taken at least 15 days before your visit
  • Nearby towns: la Macarena, Villavicencio
  • You’ll see: colourful river, waterfall, petroglyphs, tropical rain forest
  • Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park

Underwater life in one of the few underwater national parks in South America
Underwater life. Source: Pixabay

The Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y de San Bernardo consists of 27 islets. It is Colombia’s only underwater national park, surrounding the paradise that are the Rosario and San Bernardo islands, on the country’s Caribbean coast.

It’s a wonderful marine ecosystem, including the main attraction, a huge coral reef. The waters are shallow and crystal clear, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s definitely a very special place to visit and enjoy the sun and the soft water.

We’ve written a beach guide about Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price 9500 COP (2 EUR / 2.3 USD)
Key features
  • See the national park by diving or snorkeling
  • One of the most popular national parks in Colombia
  • Nearest city: Cartagena
  • You’ll see: coral reef, fascinating marine wildlife, beaches

National parks in Ecuador

Despite its small size, Ecuador boasts a very varied landscape of coast, mountains, jungle, and a myriad of volcanoes. Thus, you can expect a multifarious array of national parks too.

  • Galápagos National Park

Iguana on a rock in Galapagos National Park
Magical Galápagos. Source: Pixabay

Everyone dreams of going to the Galápagos – don’t you? A paradise on Earth where animals are not afraid of humans and where Darwin did his most famous observations for his  “Origin of Species”. Wildlife certainly is the #1 reason why so many visitors come to this protected natural El Dorado.

It’s a beautiful archipelago, but we have to warn you: a very expensive one too. The only way to reach it is by plane (or on a multi-day cruise), so if you plan to visit, book ahead. That’s the reason why we’ve had to skip it until now.

Best time to go All year-round, weather is the most pleasant December – March
Entrance Price 100 USD (93 EUR)
Key features
  • Very expensive and popular national park
  • Get there only by plane or cruise
  • You’ll see: a lot of unique wildlife, e.g. giant tortoises, marine iguanas, boobies, etc.
  • Cotopaxi National Park

Eponymous volcano in cotopaxi national park
The towering Cotopaxi volcano. Source: Pixabay

Cotopaxi volcano, towering at 5,897 m (19,347 ft), is one of the most famous landmarks of Ecuador. A relatively short ride from Quito, many people visit the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi as a day trip from the capital. But to really enjoy nature, and the amazing views on the volcano and the area, you should stay overnight in a mountain refuge.

Cotopaxi is still active, it erupted last in 2015. Since then all activities (like hiking, camping) are more closely controlled. Apart from hiking options, visitors can also revel in horseback riding and downhill biking.

Best time to visit Mid-July until early October during the dry, windy season
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Hikes to a refugio (uphill) and to lakes (flat hike)
  • Climb Cotopaxi independently, or with a guide
  • High altitude, acclimatisation is necessary
  • Nearby city: Quito
  • You’ll see: volcano, grassy land at the foothills, Andean wildlife
  • Cajas National Park

Gold-colour tundra with mountains in background
Cajas National Park with its golden grass.

The Cajas National Park is a smaller and less visited national park, perfect as a day trip from the lively and very enjoyable student town of Cuenca. Depending on how early you set off, there are several hikes of various lengths on the not-too-steep slopes, among tall, golden grass and in between lakes. It’s often windy and wet at this height on the Andes mountains.

If you look for solitude in any national park in South America, you will find it here.

Best time to go Between June and September, but the weather is unpredictable
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • High altitude, acclimatisation is needed
  • Less popular national park
  • You’ll see: lagoons among moorland and hilly landscape, paper tree

National parks in Peru

Peru has not only the most famous archaeological sites on the continent, but also some of the most fascinating national parks in South America. Like Ecuador’s, its geography is divided in Pacific coast, the Andes mountains and the Amazon jungle. It was hard to choose only 3, but here are our top national parks in Peru.

  • Choquequirao Archeological Park

viewpoint on the hike in the valley to Choquequirao, Peru
The strenuous but extremely rewarding Choquequirao trek from my favourite view point.

In the shadows of more famous Inca ruins, Choquequirao is confidentially nestled atop a majestic mountain. Still partially hidden by the vegetation, only condors and a handful of intrepid hikers share the secret of its beauty. Situated very close to Machu Picchu, it’s the hikers’ preferred option for wandering among Inca ruins – almost completely alone.

The site isn’t the easiest to reach though. It’s either a 3-4 days round-trip hike in two ecosystems: the dense jungle and the bare sub-andean forest; or a 9-day trek as far as the Machu Picchu, as a great alternative to the Inca trail.

Why not check more photos of the fascinating, multi-day hike to Choquequirao?

Best time to go Dry season between May – October, but can be visited all year-round
Entrance Price 60 soles (16 EUR /17 USD)
Key features
  • 3-4 days return hike to the archeological site
  • Nearby city: Cusco
  • You’ll see: demanding downhill then uphill hike, Inca ruins, jungle
  • Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area

A small waterfall in the Amazon rainforest
A small waterfall in the Amazon jungle

The Cordillera Escalera area is the least visited part of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. It’s located near the town of Tarapoto, in the northeast of Peru.

In fact, when we were there, we didn’t meet a single other hiker during our 3 camping days. So if you’d like to experience the magic of the rain forest without a crowd, this is the perfect place. Imagine waterfalls where you can swim alone, and listen to the sound of the jungle at night.

We’ve written about our unbelievable 3-day camping trip in the Cordillera Escalera.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price 20 soles (5.2 EUR / 5.7 USD)
Key features
  • Day- and multi-day hikes in solitude
  • Overnight in the jungle is highly recommended
  • Possible to go on an ayahuasca retreat
  • Nearby city: Tarapoto
  • You’ll see: dense rainforest, waterfalls, sounds of the jungle
  • Huascaran National Park

Cloudy Lake Churup, near Huaraz, Peru
Cloudy Lake Churup in the Huascaran National Park

After Patagonia, the second most famous hikers’ paradise in South America is probably the Huascaran National Park in the Cordillera Blanca. The Huascaran National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. It is often referred to as Huaraz, after the biggest town nearby.

This national park in the centre of Peru will surely be the favourite of those who are into lagoons of electric blue, strolls on glaciers or multi-day hikes on a breathtaking landscape dotted with wild lakes.

If you’re sold, read about 3 day hikes in the Huascaran National Park we did independently from Huaraz.

Best time to go March – November
Entrance Ticket 1 day 30 soles (8 EUR / 8.5 USD), 3 days 60 soles (16 EUR / 17 USD), 30 days 150 soles (39 EUR / 42.5 USD)
Key features
  • Plenty of day- and multi-day hikes
  • High altitude, acclimatisation is necessary
  • Nearby town: Huaraz
  • You’ll see: breathtaking lagoons, mountains, glaciers

National parks in Bolivia

Bolivia is the most rural corner of the continent, a scenario of undeveloped infrastructure and untouched nature. That makes it hard on the budget traveller to visit the national parks independently. The best is therefore to get a tour. They are cheap for our Western pockets anyway; and we swear that the dive in the remote nature will be an experience for life.

  • Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Nature Reserve

Flamingos at a lake near uyuni bolivia
Flamingos finding their fishies.

If you are dreaming of colourful lakes, flamingos, geysers and hot springs, take the 3-day tour of Uyuni, that will go to Eduardo Avaroa Natural Reserve as well. Although the Uyuni salt flats in the south are the most visited attraction in Bolivia, this natural reserve in the Andes is not well-known, only for the tour operators.

You normally would reach it only with the 3-day tour. By the way, we’ve written a thorough guide on the 3-day Uyuni tour here.

Best time to go For dry weather, best to go between May and November
Entrance Price 156 BS (21 EUR / 22.6 USD)
Key features
  • Located at 4200 m altitude, so acclimatisation is necessary
  • Only reachable with a tour (best to book in Uyuni upon arrival)
  • Nearest town: Uyuni
  • You’ll see: volcanoes, colourful lakes, flamingos, rock formations, untouched landscapes
  • Madidi National Park

Madidi, Bolivia, one of the many Amazonian National Parks in South America
Madidi National Park in Bolivia seems completely untouched. Source: Wiki Commons

With about half of its land covered with forests, Bolivia is a treasure-trove for backpackers looking for remote experiences. The Madidi National Park, in the northwest of the country, is the most accessible piece of the Amazon Rainforest in Bolivia.

It’s, in fact, part of the largest protected area in the world. Together with its neighbours, the park offers a very diverse ecosystem that ranges from tropical glaciers to thick rain forest. The park is home to a few Quechua-speaking indigenous groups. There are some renowned ecotourism projects, such as eco lodges and eco tours.

It’s not possible to visit the park independently, so when booking a tour make sure you choose a sustainable one.

Best time to go For dry weather the best to go is between May and September
Entrance Price 150 BS (20.3 EUR / 22 USD – ticket to the park, tour not included)
Key features
  • In the rainy season roads can be cut, so check weather conditions ahead
  • Not possible to visit the park independently, you must book a tour (cheapest is locally)
  • Nearest town: Rurrenabaque
  • You’ll see: dense rain forest, humidity, diverse wildlife, colourful parrots and different species of birds & monkeys
  • Amboró National Park

Amboro National Park, Bolivia
Peaks of the Amboro National Park. Source: Wiki Commons

Situated near Santa Cruz in the centre of the country, Amboró National Park  is a magical place with over 900 bird species and many mammals, such as puma, ocelot or bear. Although it’s a protected area and one of the most diverse national parks in the world, deforestation and poaching are still an issue.

Being such a vast area at the “elbow of the Andes“, it encompasses various ecosystems: humid Amazonian jungle, several types of dry forests and Yungas, which is a transition between the Andes highlands and the eastern forests. The change in altitude is a spinning 3000 m, although most of the park tops between 1000 and 2000 m.

By law, travellers can enter Amboró National Park only with a certified guide. Guides and tours are widely available – it’s cheaper to book directly in Santa Cruz.

Best time to go For dry weather the best to go is between May and September
Entrance Price 100 BS in 2017 (13 EUR / 14.5 USD) – ticket to the park, guide not included
Key features
  • You must hire a guide (cheapest is locally)
  • You can overnight in the park at campsites or eco lodges
  • Nearest towns: Santa Cruz and Cochabamba
  • You can expect: various landscapes, waterfalls, huge ferns, many bird species

National parks in Venezuela

A word of warning before presenting the last national parks: as of March 2020 it’s not safe to travel to Venezuela due to the violent political crisis there. All travels are not advised right now. We were rather gutted to not be able to go to this beautiful land during our trip, but it’s for the best. We highly recommend you to keep away for now and save these national parks for a later time.

  • Canaima National Park

Angel Falls in the morning light, Venezuela
Angel Falls in the morning light. Source: Wiki Commons

In the top-of-the-drop list of waterfalls in the world, you probably see South America mentioned twice. Alongside the roaring broadness of Iguaçu stand the mighty Angel Falls in southeastern Venezuela.

The Canaima National Park that surrounds them is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1994 thanks to its rich biodiversity. The main part of this park the size of Belgium is a flat table that drops with sheer cliffs towards the abyss. Several waterfalls take the dive there, including Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), at 807 m (2,648 ft) the world’s highest single-plunge waterfall.

A trek to the base of the Angels Falls takes 3 days: a mix of trekking and canoeing. The cheapest way to book this tour is at Ciudad Bolívar airport right upon arrival.

Best time to go October and November when the rainy season stops but there’s still a water stream for the falls
Entrance PriceBsF 35 (*currency is in crisis, no point to convert it to EUR or USD)
Key features
  • Not possible to get to the park overland, you must fly in
  • You must present proof of yellow fever vaccination
  • Nearest city: Ciudad Bolivar
  • You’ll see: the highest waterfall in the world, dense rain forest, incredibly diverse wildlife, parrots, jaguars
  • Médanos de Coro National Park

Sand dunes in Venezuela, off-the-beaten-path national park in south america
Médanos de Coro National Park in Venezuela. Source: Wiki Commons

This beautiful national park is quite different to the image I have of national parks, as it’s a desert with the Andes mountain in the background. This landscape will mesmerise travellers with its rolling sand dunes, so it’s a perfect place to meditate about the big questions in life, try sand-boarding or just climb one of the sand dunes and roll yourself down! So it’s ideal for family fun too.

Médanos de Coro is situated relatively close to the Colombian border and the Caribbean coast. In fact, apart from the desert-like landscape it also has a littoral zone with thorny shrubs.

Best time to go All year-round
Entrance Price Free
Key features
  • Easy to reach by bus or taxi
  • Nearest city: Coro
  • You’ll see: desert-like landscape, sand dunes

Hiking boots laced up? Water bottle filled up? Camera loaded? Ready to tackle one or several of those impressive landscapes? Whatever type of nature you like, you’ll find a protected area with its fauna and flora waiting just for you. As for us, we’re looking forward to going back and discovering more places to add to the list!

Are you planning a trip to South America? Which national parks attract you the most? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Who am I?

Anna is a world citizen, an avid traveller, a passionate environmentalist and a digital nomad. Writing about her year backpacking through South America, she tries to encourage everyone to discover this beautiful continent as a traveller or a digital nomad and pass on her love for responsible travel.

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    1. You’d be surprised about the many interesting things in that “other side of the world”. Not only the South American national parks are amazing, but the culture is fascinating. Fingers crossed you’ll make it there soon 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Wow what an excellent and detailed post on the national parks in South America! I can understand why you were so excited to visit. Each park has such a diverse and breathtaking landscape. I don’t think I could choose, I’d want to see them all!

    1. We were the same, wished we had infinite time and energy to hike all of these national parks. Especially the rainforest was that type of landscape we haven’t encountered much before, so it was really fascinating. Thanks so much, Vanessa for your lovely comment and see you around soon 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, Lannie. I hope we managed to pique your curiosity and soon you’ll visit one or more of these great national parks in South America 🙂 Thanks for your visit!

  2. This is a wonderfully comprehensive guide, Anna! I really enjoyed how you laid it out and how easy it was to read. Now I have plenty of ideas for a future trip to South America. Pinning it for later when I can start planning trips again!

    1. Thanks a lot, Becky! Happy to hear that you find our post useful for planning your future South America trip. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get there soon 🙂

  3. I must admit that I didn’t realise there were so man National Parks in South America. They all look incredible and some of them are certainly on our must see list. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Most of us know the Iguazu national park, and maybe a couple of others and that’s it. The national parks in North America seem to be more famous, for some reason. Hence this post. Thanks for your visit, Wendy!

  4. Those parks all look beautiful.
    We are travelling to South America next year and I hope we will be able to visit as many of them as possible, we shall have time in 8 months!

    Thank you!
    Francois – Virevolte

  5. marvellous post. I was searching for just this to plan a future trip and no-one seemedto have it. Then I stumbled across yours …. and yyaaayyy. Lots of great info so will bookmark for my planning, thanks

    1. Happy to read that, Barry! We hope these short descriptions and the map of national parks in South America help you plan your future trip. Stay in touch!

  6. Beautiful photos and so much great information! I’ve never been to South America, but I do love the outdoors. Love the part about you preferring the parks in Argentina over Chile because most of them are free! That’s how I am too, I’d rather not pay entrance fees for outdoor activities especially.

    1. Glad to know we’re not the only penny pinchers here, haha! We’re planning a series of posts about the main national parks in each country in South America. So stay in touch & hopefully you’ll be inspired to visit soon!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Taylor! We are happy to hear that you find the post useful. Sadly we didn’t make it to Torres del Paine last year but planning it for our next trip to South America. There are so many amazing places to see!

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