This is the first question we get asked back home, and the hardest one to answer. Everywhere we traveled in SA was so unique that it cannot be compared to the next. There is a reason to love each place individually just as much as the next place, so I will break it down in bests:
Best Hiking: Patagonia! While we preferred the less touristy side in Argentina (towns like San Carlos Bariloche and El Bolson are hiking heavens) you can of course get the most picture-perfect hiking experiences in Torres del Paine in Chile. Overall, you cannot go wrong with hiking in Patagonia.
Best Food: Most of the countries in SA lack unique cultural cuisine, but Peru is a foodie heaven. We spent several days (at different points in time) eating our way through town markets. You have not had ceviche, until you have had it in Peru.
Best Beaches: Colombia! While there are gorgeous beaches on the Caribbean side of Colombia, you can also island hop to some cute and picturesque places.
Favorite City: We fell in love with the chaos and contradiction of La Paz, Bolivia. It is a city built into the walls of a canyon filled with bustling markets, modern restaurants, and women dressed in traditional outfits. It is unlike anywhere in the world
Best Parties: Punta del Este, Uruguay reigns as holiday king. With packed beaches, trendy shops and restaurants, sky scrapers, and mediterranean-style homes and architecture, this city has it all for a good time.
Best History: Peru is basically one big archaeological site. Obviously, there is Machu Picchu (which should never be missed), but there are ruins and artifact museums in every city and town in the entire country!
Other things that cannot be missed:
-Tour the giant Perrito Moreno Glacier in Argentina
-Lay your sights on glaciers and amazing hiking in Huascaran and the Cordillera Blancas in Peru
-Eat sugar cane and swing over the city below in Banos, Ecuador
-Eat crab at the bottom of the continent in Ushuaia, Argentina
-Road trip the legendary Carretera Austral in Chile
-Take a boat trip to Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia