South America is a vibrant and diverse continent with a rich culture, stunning landscapes, and a growing tourism industry. While the region may have a reputation for crime and safety concerns, there are many cities that stand out as safe havens for travelers.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the 16 safest cities in South America, where you can explore the best of what the continent has to offer without compromising your safety.
1. Arequipa, Peru
One of the safest cities in South America, Arequipa is known for its European architecture and historic city center. Located in the south of Peru, this “white city” is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts a beautiful plaza de armas, which is a central square surrounded by stunning colonial buildings.
Arequipa offers a variety of tourist attractions and historic sites, including the Santa Catalina Monastery, making it a good idea for a day trip to explore the surrounding area. With a low crime rate, it’s a safe place for visitors to enjoy the local cuisine, rich culture, and the warm hospitality of the locals.
2. Florianopolis, Brazil
As one of the safest cities in Brazil, Florianopolis is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and welcoming atmosphere. This city, located on the coast of Santa Catarina, offers a mix of historic and modern architecture, making it a charming place to visit.
Florianopolis also has a reliable public transportation system, making it easy for visitors to explore the city and its surrounding areas. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, the local cuisine, or simply relaxing on the beach, Florianopolis has something for everyone.
3. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, located in the highlands of Ecuador, is a city known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, rich culture, and sense of community. It offers a safe and welcoming environment, attracting a significant expat community and international visitors.
The city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with cobblestone streets, grand cathedrals, and beautiful plazas. Cuenca is also home to a variety of cultural attractions, including art galleries, museums, and local markets, where you can explore the vibrant local culture and cuisine. With a low crime rate and a strong sense of community, Cuenca is a safe destination for travelers.
4. Cordoba, Argentina
Argentina, known as one of the safest countries in South America, is home to the city of Cordoba, which offers a safe and enjoyable experience for tourists. Cordoba is a historic city rich in architectural heritage, with its charming city center filled with leafy parks and green spaces.
Visitors can explore the city’s cobblestone streets, historic neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks, such as the Jesuit Block, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As a university city, Cordoba has a vibrant cultural scene and a large student population, adding to its lively atmosphere. With a low crime rate, Cordoba is a great destination for history enthusiasts and culture lovers alike.
5. Santiago, Chile
Santiago, the capital city of Chile, stands out as one of the safest places to visit in South America. This cosmopolitan city offers a pleasant blend of historic architecture, modern infrastructure, and abundant green spaces. Visitors can explore the city’s cobblestone streets, historic neighborhoods, and attractions such as the Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square.
Santiago also boasts a well-developed public transportation system, making it easy for tourists to navigate the city and visit its various attractions. With a focus on safety, modernity, and the preservation of green areas, Santiago is a city that offers a unique and safe travel experience.
6. Cusco, Peru
Cusco, a city nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, is best known as the gateway to Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Despite being a popular tourist destination, Cusco remains relatively safe, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of the region.
The city, with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and vibrant local markets, offers a safe and enjoyable experience for travelers. Additionally, Cusco serves as a starting point for exploring the Sacred Valley, where visitors can witness the ancient Inca ruins and stunning landscapes.
7. Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza, located at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, is renowned as one of the best destinations for wine enthusiasts. Apart from its world-class wineries, Mendoza offers a safe and picturesque cityscape, surrounded by vineyards and stunning landscapes.
Visitors can explore the city’s historic center, with its colonial architecture, leafy parks, and lively plazas. Mendoza’s proximity to the Andean mountains also allows for exciting outdoor activities, such as hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. With its safe environment, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking natural beauty, Mendoza is a must-visit destination in South America.
8. Arequipa, Perú
Nestled in the Andes, Arequipa is an ideal destination to savor local cuisine and immerse in rich culture. The city center boasts historic architecture and serene parks, offering a delightful blend of the past and present. From cobblestone streets to charming neighborhoods, Arequipa’s allure lies in its diverse tourist attractions and well-preserved historic sites. With an efficient public transportation system, traversing this captivating city is a breeze, enhancing the overall experience for visitors.
9. Florianópolis, Brazil
Nestled in Brazil, Florianopolis offers a rich tapestry of local cuisine and culture, making it an irresistible destination for visitors. With a blend of historic and modern architecture, this city captivates tourists with its diverse architectural landscape.
Boasting stunning beaches, the city center is also home to various tourist attractions and historic sites. Visitors can wander through the historic neighborhoods, immersing themselves in the charm of cobblestone streets and ancient landmarks.
10. Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, stands out as one of the safest cities in South America, with low crime rates and a high quality of life. Located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, Montevideo offers a safe, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere for travelers.
The city’s Rambla, a waterfront promenade, is a popular spot for locals and tourists to walk, jog, and enjoy the stunning views of the river. Montevideo also boasts a vibrant cultural scene, historic neighborhoods, and a rich history, making it a delightful destination for those seeking safety and a unique travel experience.
11. Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, once known for its high crime rates, has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, becoming a safe and innovative city. Located in the Aburra Valley of Colombia, Medellin now serves as a model for urban development and social transformation.
The city’s efficient public transportation system, which includes cable cars and metro lines, makes it easy for visitors to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods and attractions. Medellin offers a vibrant nightlife, a variety of museums, and a welcoming atmosphere, making it a safe city to visit for those interested in experiencing the city’s cultural legacy and innovative spirit.
12. Asunción, Paraguay
Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay, is known for its affordable cost of living, growing economy, and safety improvements. In recent years, the city has made significant progress in reducing crime rates, making it a safe destination for tourists. Asunción offers a mix of historic and modern attractions, including colonial architecture, leafy parks, and vibrant local markets.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture, enjoy the local cuisine, and explore the city’s rich history. With a growing economy and a focus on safety, Asunción provides a safe and enjoyable experience for travelers.
13. Bucaramanga, Colombia
Bucaramanga, located in the northeast of Colombia, is a hidden gem for adventure tourism, surrounded by lush parks, greenery, and stunning landscapes. This city offers a safe environment for visitors to explore, with a relatively low rate of violent crime.
Bucaramanga is known for its parks and green spaces, such as the Chicamocha National Park, where visitors can partake in outdoor activities like hiking, paragliding, and river rafting. With its natural beauty, friendly locals, and a thriving tourism industry, Bucaramanga is a safe and attractive destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
14. Cordoba, Argentina
Cordoba, Argentina presents a rich cultural tapestry and architectural wonders. With its vibrant street life and historical charm, the city encapsulates safety and cultural richness.
Cordoba’s cobblestone streets and lively atmosphere create an inviting environment for visitors and tourists to explore safely. The city’s historical landmarks and local culinary delights further enhance its appeal as a secure and enjoyable destination, combining history and contemporary urban savvy seamlessly.
15. Sucre, Bolivia
Nestled in the heart of Bolivia, Sucre, known as the “white city,” holds the prestigious title of a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its stunning historic architecture. This vibrant city is a cultural gem, offering a delightful blend of local cuisine and street smarts.
With its cobblestone streets and picturesque parks, Sucre provides a secure environment for exploration. Visitors can bask in the richness of its history while immersing themselves in the lively atmosphere, making it a truly safe and enjoyable destination.
16. Florianopolis, Brazil
Florianopolis, located on the southeastern coast of Brazil, offers a safe and idyllic destination for travelers seeking island living and outdoor activities. With its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush greenery, Florianopolis is a paradise for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts.
The city’s safety index is high, allowing visitors to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, partake in a variety of outdoor activities, such as surfing, hiking, and sailing, and explore the city’s historic neighborhoods. With its safety, natural beauty, and vibrant culture, Florianopolis is a top choice for a safe and memorable vacation in South America.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some factors that make a city safe in South America?
Factors that contribute to a city’s safety in South America can include a low crime rate, effective law enforcement, and good infrastructure. South American cities, like those globally, differ in their safety levels. However, many cities in the area have significantly improved their safety records over the years. While petty theft and common sense precautions are concerns throughout the world, South American cities have been taking measures to address these issues, making them safer places for tourists.
Are there any specific neighborhoods or areas within the safest cities that should be avoided?
While the safest cities in South America are generally safe, it is still important to exercise caution and be aware of travel warnings. Like any major city, there may be specific neighborhoods or areas within these cities that have higher crime rates and should be avoided.
Travelers are advised to research the city and its neighborhoods before traveling, consult local authorities, and stay informed of current safety recommendations. By staying aware of your surroundings, avoiding deserted streets at night, and taking sensible precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in the safest cities of South America.
What are some of the cultural attractions and highlights of the safest cities in South America?
The safest cities in South America offer a wealth of cultural attractions and highlights that immerse visitors in the local culture and history. Here are some of the must-see attractions in these cities:
Santiago, Chile: Cerro San Cristobal viewpoint, National Museum of Fine Arts
Montevideo, Uruguay: Ciudad Vieja neighborhood, Mercado del Puerto
Quito, Ecuador: historic center, cable car to the top of Pichincha volcano
Curitiba, Brazil: Oscar Niemeyer museum, Botanical Garden
These cities also offer a variety of local cuisine, allowing visitors to indulge in traditional dishes and flavors that reflect the rich history and diverse cultures of South America.
How do the crime rates of the safest cities in South America compare to those of other major global metropolitan areas?
In comparison to other major global metropolitan areas such as New York or London, the crime rates of the safest cities in South America tend to be lower. However, it’s important to remember that crime can still occur in any city, so taking necessary precautions and researching safety tips is always recommended.
In conclusion, South America offers a variety of safe and beautiful cities to explore. Whether you’re looking for cultural attractions, natural beauty, or a peaceful environment, these cities have it all. From the vibrant streets of Florianopolis and the historic charm of Arequipa to the cosmopolitan vibes of Santiago and the picturesque landscapes of Cordoba, there is something for everyone.
It’s important to note that while these cities are generally safe, it’s always wise to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. To learn more about these cities or if you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Happy travels!
Ferona Jose is a passionate travel writer and blogger at Travelistia. She has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her writing focuses on cheap travel destinations, travel experiences, cultural insights, and travel hacks.