10 Best Scenic Drives in South America

South America isn’t called a continent of contrasts for nothing. Imagine squeezing rainforests teeming with life, mountain ranges piercing the clouds, sun-drenched beaches, and ancient ruins into one landmass – that’s the sort of magic you’ll experience in South America. So, whether you’re a seasoned road tripper with a well-worn map or an adventurous soul craving epic vistas, South America beckons with unforgettable experiences behind the wheel.

To that end, we’ve put together a list of ten of the best scenic drives in South America that promise unforgettable views and experiences. Get ready to immerse yourself in vibrant cultures, savor delicious cuisines unique to each region, and discover the rich history reflected in ancient ruins and colonial towns. Strike up conversations with friendly locals, learn a few phrases in Spanish or Portuguese, and let the contagious South American spirit embrace you.

Ruta 40 is one of the longest highways in the world, stretching over 5,000 kilometers from the northern border of Argentina to the southern tip of Patagonia—the location divided by the Andes mountains. This iconic route parallels the Andes and passes through diverse landscapes, including the arid deserts of Salta, the wine country of Mendoza, and the glacial terrains of Patagonia. Highlights include the stunning Los Glaciares National Park, home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, and the charming towns of El Calafate and Bariloche.

The Transamazonian Highway (BR-230) is a route that cuts through the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Its challenging nature is not for the faint of heart, but the drive offers an unparalleled experience of the Amazon’s vast and diverse ecosystem for those who choose to brave it. The journey reveals dense rainforests, remote indigenous communities, and the majestic Amazon River. Experience the raw, unfiltered beauty of one of the world’s most vital ecological treasures that will leave you awestruck. 

Stretching over 1,200 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, the Carretera Austral is a mesmerizing journey through Chilean Patagonia. The road winds through temperate rainforests, fjords, glaciers, and national parks such as Queulat and Patagonia. Must-see spots include the turquoise waters of General Carrera Lake, the marble caves at Capillas de Mármol, and the remote beauty of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The Carretera Austral is perfect for those seeking solitude and dramatic natural beauty.

This drive encompasses a loop through the Andes, crossing the border between Argentina and Chile multiple times. Starting from Mendoza, Argentina’s renowned wine region, the route ascends into the high Andes, passing the Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. Crossing into Chile, the road descends into the verdant valleys and reaches Santiago. The circuit offers a blend of stunning mountain scenery, vineyard-covered valleys, and vibrant cities, capturing the essence of both countries.

This scenic drive in Argentina’s Patagonia region connects the towns of San Martín de los Andes and Villa La Angostura, passing through the stunning Lanín and Nahuel Huapi National Parks. The route is famous for its series of glacial lakes, each with its unique color and surrounding landscapes. Highlights include the serene Lácar Lake, the deep blue waters of Nahuel Huapi Lake, and the enchanting forested areas that make this drive particularly picturesque in the autumn.

Known as one of the world’s most dangerous roads, the North Yungas Road, or Death Road, offers an adrenaline-pumping drive with spectacular views. Starting from the high-altitude city of La Paz, the road descends rapidly into the lush Yungas region. The narrow and winding road clings to cliffs and offers breathtaking views of valleys and waterfalls. Don’t be food by the name because its improved safety measures make it a popular destination for thrill-seeking travelers.

The Pacific Coastal Highway along Peru offers a striking contrast of ocean and desert landscapes. Starting from Lima, the drive heads south through the coastal desert, with stops at the Paracas National Reserve, the mysterious Nazca Lines, and the charming city of Arequipa. The route provides endless ocean views, dramatic cliffs, and opportunities to explore Peru’s rich cultural heritage and natural wonders.

This drive runs through the central highlands of Ecuador, flanked by some of the country’s most impressive volcanoes. Starting from Quito, the route heads south along the Pan-American Highway, passing by the towering peaks of Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, and Tungurahua. The drive offers stunning volcanic landscapes, picturesque valleys, and opportunities to explore charming Andean villages and vibrant indigenous markets.

Ruta del Spondylus, also known as the “Ruta del Sol,” runs along Ecuador’s Pacific coast from the Colombian to the Peruvian border. This scenic drive offers a mix of pristine beaches, charming fishing villages, and lush tropical landscapes. Key highlights include the vibrant beach town of Montañita, known for its surfing and nightlife, and the Machalilla National Park, home to diverse wildlife and the beautiful Los Frailes Beach.

Uruguay’s Wine Route, primarily located in the Canelones region, offers a scenic drive through rolling vineyards and picturesque countryside. Starting from the capital city of Montevideo, the route leads to various family-owned wineries where travelers can taste Uruguay’s signature Tannat wines. The drive combines beautiful rural landscapes with the charm of small towns like Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its cobbled streets and historic architecture.

South America isn’t just a continent – it’s a road trip wonderland! From the heart-pounding heights of Bolivia’s Death Road to the serene embrace of Argentina’s glacial lakes, every twist and turn offers a breathtaking adventure. Lush rainforests line the Transamazonian Highway in Brazil, while the Atacama Desert in Chile challenges you with otherworldly landscapes.No matter your destination, your trusty vehicle is your partner in exploration. Make sure it’s up to the challenge with genuine Mopar parts and accessories. Visit your nearest dealer today and equip your car for the South American adventure of a lifetime!

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