South America is a one of the best example of a successful indigenous and colonial mix, when it comes to civilization, culture, history, traditions and food and drink. Despite the negative impact of the Spanish and Portuguese colonization, which often led to the extermination of entire Indian population, the latter managed to continue to have a strong impact in the cultural development of the countries. Nowadays, as you travel across Latin America, the Inca, Maya and Aztec ruins are a testimony that the Indian influence remains strong, despite losing the battle on the ground with the occupying European forces.
Some of the landmarks in South America will include the Machu Picchu or the Iguazu Falls, between Argentina and Brazil, but you should always try to go off the beaten track and take the bus from Buenos Aires through the Pampas and into the Southern-most town in the world, at the tip of continent, in Ushuaia. Some of the experience is not even about the sites themselves or the food and drink, but about the atmosphere and about the way people live, whether dancing the tango in Buenos Aires or lazing at the beach in Rio de Janeiro. South America sounds very general and homogenous, but each country has something to show for.
Getting to South America is relatively simple, flying with one of the numerous US or Latin American companies into a large capital city or metropolis. Getting around the continent may be a challenge, mostly because of the difficult landscape and environment that goes from the Amazonian jungle to the Andes Mountains. The buses seem to be the most reliable option, although reliability varies from country to country. It is also the cheapest option to travel, so if you are planning a long trip and have the strength to withstand it, riding a night bus is definitely a way to go.
Security in Latin America is a subject of the news lately, with kidnappings and drug wars in Mexico and Columbia being a natural deterrent to travelling these countries. As all over the world, there are dangers, but playing it safe should be the bottom rule when travelling to some of these countries. So, if you are in Columbia, for example, avoid travelling in remote rural villages. In large metropolises, like Mexico City or Rio de Janeiro, avoid going out late at night in marginal neighborhoods.