Rio de Janeiro is a huge seaside city in Brazil, famed for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, 38m Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado and for Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite peak with cable cars to its summit. The city is also known for its sprawling favelas (shanty towns). Its raucous Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancers, is considered the world’s largest.
Foz do Iguaçu, a city in the Brazilian state of Paraná, is the main base for visiting famed Iguaçu Falls, one of the world’s largest waterfalls. Stretching for 2.7km, and straddling the border with Argentina, the falls comprise hundreds of cascades, including the 80m-tall Devil’s Throat. Drenching rides on rubber boats are a popular way to take in the thundering spectacle.
San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, sits in the Central Valley region with the Talamanca Mountains to the south and volcanoes to the north. The city is distinguished by its Spanish colonial buildings, like the ornate, neoclassical National Theatre of Costa Rica overlooking downtown’s Plaza de la Cultura, a popular gathering spot. Below the plaza, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum displays hundreds of gleaming artifacts.
Guayaquil is a port city in Ecuador, known as a gateway to Pacific beaches and the Galapagos Islands. Stretching along the Guayas River is the waterfront Simon Bolivar promenade, home to La Rotonda monument. In the north, Las Penas is a neighborhood full of colorful houses. Stairs lined with cafes and art galleries lead up Santa Ana Hill, site of Santa Ana chapel, a lighthouse and views of the city.
Quito, Ecuador’s capital, sits high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850m. Constructed on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, it’s known for its well-preserved colonial center, rich with 16th- and 17th-century churches and other structures blending European, Moorish and indigenous styles. These include the cathedral, in the Plaza Grande square, and ultra-ornate Compañia de Jesús Jesuit church.