The peaceful small towns of South America are the perfect hiatus after spending time in the chaotic cities. These towns and villages are also often where the local culture is at its strongest. You can find everything from charming colonial towns and hiking paradises to villages with a Wild West feel. Here are the 10 best small towns in South America!
1. Salento, Colombia
Salento is a charming town in the coffee axis with the best hike in Colombia. Its relaxing vibe makes it the perfect place to unwind after spending time in the hectic cities. You can tour one of the scenic coffee farms and spend your nights playing the country’s coolest drinking sport. Plus, for a small town, it has fantastic restaurants. Read more about visiting Salento!
2. Paraty, Brazil
This seaside colonial town has beautiful architecture and stunning scenery. Boat tours to the nearby islands, visiting Brazil’s only fjord, admiring the waterfalls, and a sunrise hike are how you can spend your time in this gem. Paraty is a must-visit for any traveler in Brazil. Read more about visiting Paraty!
3. Ollantaytambo, Peru
The living city of the Incas gets a lot of tourist traffic, but it’s primarily at the train station to Machu Picchu. The village of Ollantaytambo is set beautifully between the mountains and got its nickname because of the strong indigenous culture. The village has one of the best archeological sites in the region and a fantastic off-the-beaten-path hike between Inca ruins and salt pools. Read more about visiting Ollantaytambo!
4. El Chalten, Argentina
The trekking capital of Argentina is the ultimate budget destination and the base for the famous Mount Fitz Roy hike. The town has no cell service, poor wifi, and plenty of bars serving $2 pints of craft beer. The vibe in this simple town is sublime and it’s a must on any visit to Patagonia. It’s very budget-friendly because all the hiking trails are free and start from the town. Read more about visiting El Chalten!
5. Purmamarca, Argentina
Purmamarca is only one of the many stunning towns in the high-altitude desert region of Jujuy. The colorful mountains will take your breath away. The architecture and pace of this gaucho town make you feel like you are in a different era. Between wine country and Patagonia, Jujuy gets forgotten by many travelers and it’s the most underrated place in the country. Oh yeah, and you can visit the spectacular salt flats nearby. Read more about visiting Jujuy!
6. Otavalo, Ecuador
Otavalo is well known for its indigenous textile market, the largest of its kind in South America. Unfortunately, many visitors stray no further than the town square and miss out on the incredible hike around Laguna Cuicocha. Otavalo is made up mostly of Kichwa people, and their culture is present in the town’s beautiful street art and the traditional clothing of its residents. Read more about visiting Otavalo!
7. Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador
The scenery surrounding Baños, as it’s called, is breathtaking. This simple town is home to all sorts of adventure activities that can be done on a budget. You can bike down the highway stopping off at beautiful waterfalls and hike to the spectacular viewpoints around town. For the most adventurous, you can even summit a volcano. At the end of the day, you can get some much needed rest and recovery in one of the town’s thermal baths. Read more about visiting Baños!
8. Ouro Preto, Brazil
The UNESCO town in the mining state of Minas Gerais is known for its spectacular churches and its significance during the colonial era. Ouro Preto has some of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen and fantastic viewpoints around nearly every corner. Yet, it’s not your traditional sleepy colonial town, as it’s home to a university. Read more about visiting Ouro Preto!
9. Pisac, Peru
The hippie town of Pisac is home to one of the Sacred Valley’s best archeological sites and a fantastic off-the-beaten-path hike. It’s the perfect retreat from Cusco and its lower elevation makes it a few degrees warmer. For a town of its size, it sure does have some incredible restaurants. Read more about visiting Pisac!
10. Guatapé, Colombia
The colorful town of Guatapé has one of the best attractions in the country, El Peñón. You’ll have to climb 694 steps for these incredible views of the lake, but it’s worth the struggle. Guatapé is a getaway for the residents of Medellín, and it has quite the party vibe on the weekends. You can learn about Pablo Escobar on a boat tour, ride a motorbike through the countryside, or take a jet ski across the lake. Read more about visiting Guatapé!
That wraps up the top 10. Now that you know the best small towns, read about the best hostels in South America!