Best Islands to Visit in South America
When you think about South America, islands are probably not the first thing that comes to mind.
There are lots of world famous cities in South America like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, and when thinking of island escapes most people usually think further north to the Caribbean.
But believe us there are some really spectacular islands in South America with stunning scenery, beautiful white sandy beaches, exotic wildlife and lots of adventures.
But what are the most beautiful and desirable islands to visit in South America?
Check out our list of the most spectacular islands you need to see.
1. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Fernando de Noronha (the main photo) is a volcanic archipelago located 350 kilometers off Brazil's northeast coast.
These islands are a protected national marine park and ecological location with diverse marine life, beautiful natural beaches and spectacular nature and scenery.
If you have a passion for scuba diving and snorkeling, this is one of the best diving locations in the world with clear visibility for up to 30 to 50 meters. Expect to see wildlife like dolphins, sea turtles, string rays, reef sharks and fish in its warm, clear waters.
This isn't a cheap destination to visit by South America standards, prices are almost 5x higher than in the rest of Brazil, even compared to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
But if you have the money plan a trip here, and you will be left in awe of the experience. Search our guide to the best Brazil tours for trips here.
2. Easter Island, Chile
Plan a trip to mystical Easter island and get up close to the world famous stone faces.
Easter Island is located over 3,000 miles from the Chile coast in Polynesia, making it one of the most remote places on our list. Due to the location, getting here and visiting the island isn't cheap, and a lot of Chile tour operators don't even include this island on itineraries.
There are around 900 statues and archaeological sites to see which were made by local people during the 13th–16th centuries. Tourism is a huge local industry and thousands of people do visit this volcanic island every year.
Easter Island is far away and remote but worth the trip if you want to tick this iconic destination from your bucket ist. You will also get memories to last forever!
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are somewhere very special to see.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most spectacular places in the world where you can see exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes. There are lots of trips available all year round, but it is expensive to go here.
You can’t simply catch a ferry or hop on the next flight, and with nothing but a vast expanse of raging sea between this small collection of islands in the South Pacific Ocean and the western coastline of South America, driving is clearly not an option.
The Galapagos Islands can be visited independently or on escorted South America tours. The Galapagos can also usually be added onto Ecuador tours or there is the option to join island hopping cruises.
For something totally unique you can volunteer in the Galapagos. There are lots of projects available to volunteers who are keen to join conservation and community projects. These are usually located on the coast or in the tropical forests and perfect if you like the idea of spending a gap year in Ecuador.
4. Ilha Grande, Brazil
Another entry from Brazil to our list, and one of the most beautiful islands in South America.
Located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande is very undeveloped island and perfect for a relaxing break. The island has so many white sandy pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush nature and wildlife.
Ilha Grande is a lot more easy to get to compared to Fernando de Noronha, and it is also much cheaper. The best way to get to the island is to take a ferry from Rio de Janeiro.
No cars are allowed on the island so boat is your only transport option for getting here. There are lots of attractions, sightseeing and hiking tours or you could just find an amazing place to stay and spend your days just doing nothing and enjoying every moment.
5. Uros Islands, Bolivia
This entry is one of the more unsual places you can visit in the world.
The Uros Islands are located on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, high up in the Andes Mountains. This is one of biggest lakes in South America and the world’s highest navigable body of water.
The people inhabiting the islands, the Uru or Uros, have descended from some of the earliest inhabitants of Lake Titicaca.
Over hundreds of years they have preserved a floating lifestyle which was originally built to protect them from dangers and invaders on the mainland.
The Uru built mobile the islands from the local totora plant, and they really really are a unique destination to see. If you plan on travelling to Bolivia or Peru the chances are you will stop at Lake Titicaca and you will be able to visit the islands on sightseeing boat trips. Try to learn some useful Spanish travel phrases to impress the local people.
There are more islands you can also visit on Lake Titicaca including Taquile island, Amantaní, Isla del Sol, Isla de la Luna and Suriqui. Lake Titicaka is said to be the birthplace of the Incas and on the islands you can see lots of ancient ruins.
6. The Ballestas Islands, Peru
The Ballestas Islands located off the mainland of Peru are similar to the Galápagos Islands in terms of nature, scenery and wildlife, but much easier and cheaper to get to.
The easiest way to get here is to travel to the coastal town of Paracas and book one of the various speedboat tours from the town. Tours take around two hours.
You'll get to see stunning caves and arches and various species of marine birds, penguins, sea lions and other animals.
A popular place to visit after Paracas is Huacachina, the only desert oasis in South America, and one of the best places to see in Peru.
Plan a Dream Island Break in South America
If you want to travel or take a gap year in South America, hopefully our list has given you some inspiraton for exotic island destinations to see.
All the places featured on our list are different and there are destinations for every type of traveller. From the budget backpacker wanting to find paradise, to people looking to volunteer in South America helping conservation and wildlife, to the adventurer looking to go off the beaten track and explore shores where very few people have gone before.