South America is a massive continent consisting of 12 countries, some of which has a tumultuous past or a less-than-perfect reputation. Often, South America is overlooked as a family-friendly destination for those very reasons but it is unfair to judge all countries in the region based on the stereotypes of one. With so many natural wonders, historical remains, and varied cultures, there are many family friendly destinations in South America.
Cotopaxi Volcano National Park, Ecuador.
The Cotopaxi Volcano National Park, located south of Quito, is the second largest national park in Ecuador. Three volcanoes are located within the park – the Cotopaxi, Ruminawi, and Sincholagua volcanoes. It is possible to hike the Cotopaxi volcano but the hike is quite strenuous so this is only recommended with older kids. However, many tour companies also offer horseback riding tours through the park which is a great option for all ages.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands are a bucket-list destination for many and may not come to mind as a kid-friendly destination. However, that's not true at all. In fact, the Galapagos may be one of the best destinations for kids in South America – a cruise is the most popular option for visiting the islands and most cruise lines offer kid-friendly amenities and special excursions just for the kids. It's also an educational destination, as the kids will be able to learn about the wildlife and fragile eco-system while seeing it all up close and making memories they'll never forget.
Miraflores, Lima, Peru.
Lima is a very kid-friendly city in Peru with streets where strollers actually work and beautiful parks to spend the afternoon in. It's also a good starting point for most places in Peru. When staying in Lima, opt for the Miraflores area as it's the more affluent and safest area.
Machu Picchu, Peru.
Machu Picchu is another bucket-list destination that is also kid-friendly. When most people think of Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city located in the Andes, they think of the multi-day trek to get to the top. While it is possible to do the trek with children, there are easier, kid-friendly ways to get there, including a train and shorter hikes. Visiting the ancient city is a remarkable, educational experience for everyone.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
This large national park is easily accessed by car and there are many trails to hike as well as horseback riding and other activities available. Camping is also easy and it's a great place to experience the wildlife of Chile.
Santiago is one of the most kid-friendly cities in South America (and certainly the most kid-friendly in Chile), with many children's museums and parks, like Parque Quinta Normal and the Railway Museum, as well as many activities like zip-lining and horseback riding available for older kids.
Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina.
Patagonia is a very diverse region of Argentina, spanning from the Andes in the West and the Atlantic in the East and then south to the Arctic. While spending time exploring the entire region is not a bad idea, if there is one place to visit with kids it is Los Glaciares National Park. Perito Moreno, one of the thirteen glaciers in the park, is one of the only glaciers advancing instead of shrinking in the world. Boat tours and glacier treks are also available.
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Buenos Aires is known for being the most “European” city in South America. It's great for kids, with gorgeous parks located throughout the city and the largest amusement park in South America, Parque de la Costa.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina.
The Iguazu Falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were in the running for one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. The Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side is a great place to spend an afternoon walking on many of the trails to get a panoramic view of the falls and Devil's Throat is the largest waterfall and it's worth walking out on the platform to stand right next to the falls.
The Pampas, Bolivia.
Bolivia is often looked as a family-friendly destination in South America but for those who want to experience the Amazon without heading to Brazil, it's the perfect option. By visiting the Pampas, which are located at the edge of the Amazon, it's easy to spot wildlife, from alligators to capybara. Whether you're hoping for a family vacation in a European-esque city or want to get up and close with wildlife, there's a destination in South America for your family.