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Our @NatGeoTravel Facebook fans share their favorite spots in South America, including Ecuador's wild and wonderful Galápagos Islands. (Photograph by Karine Aigner/Tandem Stock Photo)

Reader Recs: The Best of South America

As a chill descends upon the northern hemisphere, tropical temperatures tempt tourists south of the Equator.

From the spectacular wildlife of the Galápagos to the pulsating nightlife of Lima, South America offers a tremendous diversity of experiences. That’s why we asked our fans on Facebook to share their top tips for the continent.

Here’s what they had to say:

Peru proved the favorite place for a vacation among our readers. Ross P. got in the spirit by eating his way through Lima, then”exploring pisco country in Peru’s Mala District.”

Susan L. suggests trying home stays. The Peruvian families who hosted her during her trip to the Machu Picchu area were “warm and welcoming, generously sharing their homes and cultural traditions with us.”

And, for a totally off-the-beaten-path experience, Jen S. recommends Huancabamba in the north: “We rode donkeys for two hours to a sacred lake, [where] shamens instructed us to bathe while they were casting words of good luck,” she reports. “Definitely off the gringo trail!”

When it comes to Colombia, Cory B. and Priya K. agree: the beautiful colonial walled city of Cartagena is worth the trip. “The food, the culture, the climate, [and] the people were all wonderful and charming.” Priya says. “[The city is] easy to navigate and full of nooks and crannies to discover.”

Gena R. calls the UNESCO-protected El Fuerte de Samaipata archaeology site in Bolivia “a place right out of dreams. The sweeping mountain vistas, unique ecosystems, fascinating ruins, and friendly people draw folks from all over the world. Everyone we met there seemed just as stunned as we were to be in the midst of such beauty and bounty.”

Fredrik D. was impressed by Isla del Sol, an island in the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca (its other half lies in neighboring Peru). He offers this advice to fellow travelers: “Take the boat from Copacabana to the island and…hike along the coast to the place where the Incas were born, according to legend,” he advises. “You can see the entire lake and the Andes rising [up around it], all at about 4,000 meters above sea level, which makes it even better.”

Guyana made a lasting impression on Seroj D., who fondly recounts the “beautiful summer weather all year around, relaxing atmosphere, [and] beautiful and friendly people” of this densely forested country on South America’s North Atlantic coast.

For Rainier D., Venezuela “is like a mini South America—you have the Amazon rainforest, the Andes, the longest coastline [in the Caribbean], jungles, desert, plains, snow, [and more].” Among his favorite places in the country: Canaima National Park, the jungled beaches of Playa Medina and Playa Choroni, and Colonia Tovar, “a remote colonial German town nestled in a verdant mountain range outside Caracas that’s preserved its roots over the years.”

Spending a semester among the incredible wildlife of the Galápagos Islands gave marine biology student Lexie S. an inside look at the South American archipelago. Her favorite spot? Isabela Island, “the most beautiful and sadly overlooked island in the Galapagos.” It’s also its largest.

For its rolling hills and more than 250 lakes, Alison M. recommends Cajas National Park in Ecuador. “[It’s] completely off the beaten track—and looks like the Scottish Highlands,” she says.

Who can resist the sight and sound of cascading water? Not Erin D., who can’t say enough about Iguazu Falls, which straddles the Brazil/Argentina border. “You can’t help but feel amazingly happy around the positive ions.”

Daniela M. doesn’t want us to forget the striking peaks of San Martin De Los Andes, Argentina, where she says the people live by the motto, “Work hard, live simply, and embrace nature.”

Christine Blau is an associate producer for National Geographic Travel. Find her on Twitter @Chris_Blau and Instagram @christineblau.

What did we miss? Share your recommendations for the best South American destinations with the Intelligent Travel community in the comments section below.