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Central America Vs South America Travel: Pros and Cons

Are you planning a trip to Latin America and stuck between choosing Central America or South America? Both regions offer something unique to travelers. Central America offers spectacular beaches, Mayan ruins, and excellent hiking, surfing, and diving. South America offers diverse cultures, the breathtaking Amazon rainforest, the stunning Andes mountain range, and some world-class cities including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Medellin. In this guide, I outline the pros and cons of traveling Central America vs South America.

This guide covers natural beauty, food, travel costs, safety, things to do, culture, nightlife, weather, accommodation, ease of travel, and much more. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best Latin American destination for your next trip.

Machu Picchu, Peru
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Over the years, I have traveled extensively in both regions. I have visited every Central American country and most countries in South America. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.

Key Takeaways

Central America is cheaper and easier to travel around because it’s smaller. The region also offers beautiful tropical weather year-round.

South America offers more natural beauty. The food is better. It also has better cities and nightlife. The region is also more varied because it is so much larger.

Central America is the better choice for those who don’t have much time to travel, those on a tight budget, those who prefer tropical climates, and those who are interested in eco-tourism.

South America is the better choice for adventure travelers, long-term travelers, nature lovers, city people, and budget travelers. It’s a huge region with something for everyone.

Central America

Central America is made up of seven countries including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The population of Central America is around 52 million. The region has an area of around 524,000 square kilometers or 202,000 square miles.

Many travelers also pair a trip to Southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula with their visit to Central America. The region is relatively compact. It’s possible to visit the whole region in one trip or you could focus on one or two countries.

South America

South America is made up of 12 countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The continent is massive with an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers or 6,890,000 square miles. It’s the fourth largest continent.

It’s difficult to explore the entire continent in one trip. Most travelers focus their visit on a particular region or country. For example, you may explore the north and visit Colombia and Ecuador. You may focus on the south and visit Argentina and Chile. You could plan a whole trip around Brazil. Some travelers also tour the whole continent on an extended trip of 6 months to 1 year.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Central America Vs South America

In the following sections, I’ll compare Central America and South America in 13 different categories to determine which is the best travel destination.

1. Cost

Central America and South America are both affordable travel destinations. Prices are similar in both regions. That said, costs can vary quite a bit from one country to the next. Some countries are much more developed than others.

In general, Central America a cheaper to travel than South America. You can backpack Central America on a budget of $30-50 per day. On this budget, you’ll stay in hostels, travel by public transport, and eat in basic restaurants.

For the average backpacker, $40 per day or $1200 per month is a good budget for Central America. For a mid-range traveler, you’ll spend around $75-$120 per day. This budget includes private accommodation. You could also eat in nicer restaurants and use private transport more frequently.

In South America, a budget traveler will spend closer to around $40-$60 per day, depending on the country. On this budget, you’ll have to stay in hostels and travel by bus.

For an average backpacker, $50 per day or $1500 per month is a good budget. For a mid range travelers, you’ll spend closer to $80-$150 per day. This budget will allow you to stay in private accommodation and take some flights.

Prices vary by country. In Central America, Costa Rica and Panama are the most expensive places to travel. Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are some of the cheaper countries in the region.

In South America, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile are the most expensive countries to travel. Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru are some of the cheaper countries.

The cost of accommodation is similar in both regions. In cheaper areas, you can find a bed in a hostel dorm for $10-$15 per night. In more expensive areas, expect to spend $15-$20 per night for a dorm bed. Hotels go for around $25-$40 per night in cheaper countries. In more expensive countries, expect to spend $40-$80 per night.

Food cost is pretty similar as well. In most Central and South American countries, you can eat for $10-$15 per day if you eat street food, occasionally eat in restaurants, and cook some of your own meals. If you plan to eat most meals out, you might spend $20-$40 per day on food.

There are a number of reasons that South America is more expensive. First is transportation. Distances are much longer in South America because the region is so large. During your trip, you’ll have to take some flights or long-distance bus rides. The price of long-distance travel can add up. In Central America, you can take the bus from one country to the next for $20-$50. In South America, it could cost you $100-$200 to fly from one country to the next. You can take the bus for much less.

Entertainment cost is a bit higher in South America. This is because there are more attractions that you have to pay to see. You may have to pay for entrance fees or for guided tours. For example, entrance to the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru costs around $45 plus you’ll have to pay for transport and a tour. In Central America, you can find many attractions that are free or cost very little.

Overall, Central America is cheaper to travel than South America. However, costs vary from one country to the next. It’s important to research your destination before you go and plan your budget accordingly. In general, you can expect to spend more in South America than in Central America.

Winner: Central America is cheaper to travel than South America.

Sao Paulo
São Paulo from the window of my Airbnb

2. Safety

Traveling in Central and South America requires a bit more caution than traveling in other parts of the world. Crime rates are relatively high in many parts of Latin America. Both Central and South America have areas that require extra vigilance. There are some regions that should be avoided. Visitors must be aware of the dangers of theft, scams, and violent crimes, particularly in large cities.

Central and South America are vast regions. Crime rates vary from one country to the next. Some countries are perfectly safe to travel. Others are not so safe. Crime can also vary by city and neighborhood. You may be perfectly safe in the tourist zone. If you wander a few blocks outside, you may find yourself in a dangerous area. Most countries are generally safe to visit but there may be some cities or regions that should be avoided.

Some of the more dangerous countries in Central America include Honduras and Belize. Some of the more dangerous countries in South America include Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil.

These countries are considered more dangerous due to high levels of drug-related violence and gang activity. Latin America tends to have a high homicide rate. Check this list of homicide rates by country. This can give you an idea of the safety of various Latin American countries.

Not every country poses safety concerns. Some of the safest countries in Latin America include Costa Rica, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. These countries have low rates of crime. Generally speaking, they are safe for tourists.

A mural in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A mural in Rio de Janeiro

Before traveling, it is always a good idea to research your destination thoroughly to determine the risks. Read travel advisories from the US State Department. When you arrive, ask locals about which areas are safe and which areas to avoid. Before going out, ask your hotel receptionist if your destination is safe. Stay away from places that are known for crime or violence. When you’re out and about, err on the side of caution.

Violent crime in these regions is high. If you look at the murder rates, you might start rethinking your trip. The truth is that most violent crime occurring in these regions is related to the drug trade. Most crime is gang-related. Tourists generally aren’t targeted because they aren’t involved in organized crime. That said, sometimes tourists find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One form of violent crime that you do need to be aware of is robbery or mugging. This is a relatively common issue in many large cities throughout Central and South America. I have read numerous reports of travelers getting robbed in Colombia and Brazil, in particular.

Another crime that is becoming more common is tourists getting drugged and robbed. Scopolamine is used to drug and rob tourists. This is the most common in Colombia but it happens in other countries as well. If you’re dating in Latin America, you need to be cautious.

To avoid getting robbed, avoid walking around at night. Also, avoid deserted areas. Stick to touristy areas where police presence is high. If you must travel at night, take a taxi or Uber.

While you’re in a bar or restaurant, always keep an eye on your drink. If you lose sight of your drink, buy a new one. Never accept a drink from a stranger. For more info, check out my guide: How to Avoid getting Robbed While Traveling.

Petty theft is a common occurrence all over Latin America. It’s best to avoid wearing jewelry or displaying expensive items in public. Keep your camera and phone securely stored in your pocket or backpack. Never leave your belongings unattended. Petty theft is usually a crime of opportunity. If a criminal sees something they can take, they will.

Pickpocketing is also common in large cities, public transport, and touristy areas. Make sure your phone and wallet are securely stored in pockets that zip or button closed. For more info, check out my guide: How to Avoid Getting Pickpocketed While Traveling. My phone was pickpocketed in Mexico but luckily I was able to get it back.

Of course, you also have to look out for scams while traveling in these regions. Before getting into a taxi, always agree on a price. Before making a purchase, make sure you know how much it should cost so you don’t get overcharged. If someone approaches you on the street speaking fluent English, chances are they’re trying to hustle you. For more info, check out my list of 25 common travel scams and how to avoid them.

The truth is that Central and South America aren’t the safest travel destinations. Crime rates are higher here than in other popular destinations such as Europe and Southeast Asia. While traveling in Latin America, it’s important to take some basic safety precautions.

Avoid isolated areas. Don’t accept drinks or food from strangers. Don’t walk around with valuables, flashy clothing, or jewelry. Always stay aware of your surroundings and stay alert. If you notice someone suspicious, get out of there.

Most countries in these regions are politically stable. Civil unrest isn’t common but it can occur. It may be best to avoid traveling during elections.

Overall, with appropriate preparation, safety measures, and a prudent approach to navigating potentially risky areas, travelers can explore Central and South America safely and have a memorable experience. You just have to. Use some common sense.

Most people who travel to these regions never experience any issues. Once in a while, a traveler will have a negative experience. Robbery seems to be the most common crime experienced by travelers.

Winner: Safety depends on the country you are visiting. There are safe and dangerous countries in both regions. Traveling in Central and South America requires extra vigilance. That said, there are probably more safe destinations in South America.

3. Transportation and Ease of Travel

Central America is easier to get around than South America. This is mostly due to the size of the countries and the distances between them. Central America is a much smaller area than South America.

In Central America, you can travel from one destination to the next in just a few hours by bus in most cases. Local ‘chicken busses’ are available for shorter routes. These are old school buses from the U.S. that have been repurposed into public transport buses. They run frequently throughout the day.

A chicken bus in Central America
A Central American chicken bus

Coaches are available for longer trips and international routes. You can travel between countries by bus in less than a day. Night buses are available on longer routes. Most bus journeys between capital cities take 6-10 hours. One of the longest bus routes in the region is San Juan, Costa Rica to Panam City, Panama. It takes just over 16 hours.

There are also tourist shuttle buses running on popular routes. These are air-conditioned minibusses that take around 15 passengers. They’re more expensive but faster and more convenient. They usually pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. You never need to fly if you don’t want to.

It’s also easy to plan a route through Central America. You can travel one way without having to backtrack. The countries in Central America are all in a line, more or less. Most travelers travel north to south or south to north. It’s easy to start at one end of the region and travel to the other. Alternatively, you can pick a couple of neighboring countries and fly into one and out of the other.

South America is a bit harder to travel due to the long distances between destinations. When traveling between cities, you’ll have to either spend a full day or night on a bus or fly. For example, a bus trip from Lima to Cusco takes around 29 hours. Traveling from Buenos Aires to Bariloche is almost 24 hours by bus. Most travelers visiting these countries travel these routes. These are extremely long bus rides. Of course, flights are also available but they are more expensive.

In my experience, South America’s transportation infrastructure is better than Central America’s. The buses are well-maintained, clean, and comfortable. The bus stations are larger and more well-organized. Busses run more frequently. The roads are smoother. On some long-distance busses, meals are served. There are also more flights available, both domestic and international. This makes it a little more comfortable to get around.

Winner: Central America is easier to get around. South America has a better transportation infrastructure.

4. Food

If you’re a foodie, South America is the better destination. South American food is a bit more varied and diverse than Central American food.

One of the most well-known specialties in South America is Argentine steak. Argentine beef is renowned for being among the best in the world. The steak is often grilled over an open flame, giving it a great smoky taste. A number of different cuts are offered. The two most popular cuts include bife de chorizo (sirloin) and bife de lomo (skirt steak). Uruguay and Brazil are also known for their beef.

South America is a great choice for beef lovers

Another must-try dish while visiting South America is ceviche. This seafood dish is made by curing raw fish and other seafood in tangy citrus. This gives it a unique and refreshing flavor. The dish is often accompanied by crunchy diced onions, cilantro, chili peppers, and fresh herbs, making it a light and satisfying meal. Peru is famous for ceviche but it can be found all along the Pacific coast of South America.

Empanadas are a popular savory pastry found in many South American countries. These are folded dough filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, or fruits, and then baked or fried. Each country has its own unique style and flavors. Argentina is famous for them.

Feijoada is Brazil’s national dish. It is a stew made with black beans, various types of meat such as beef, pork, and sausages, and spices. It is typically served with rice, farofa (toasted cassava flour), and orange slices.

There are also many other regional specialties that are worth trying. In Colombia and Venezuela, travelers should try arepas, which are flatbreads made from cornmeal and often stuffed with cheese or other fillings. In Brazil, churrasco is a popular dish, which features grilled meats that are sliced at the table and served family-style. Argentina has churipán, a chorizo sausage sandwich, is a popular street food. In the Andes region, try locro, a hearty potato soup with cheese and avocado. Every country has its local specialties.

In South America, you can also find some great international dishes. Argentina and Brazil have large Italian populations. You can find great pizza and pasta in both countries. Both countries have their own pizza style. Brazil also has a large population of Japanese immigrants. You can find great sushi in São Paulo.

Central America also has some good dishes. The food is a bit less varied. When it comes to sampling the local cuisine of Central America, there are a few dishes that travelers should try.

Pupusas are one of the most famous dishes of Central America, particularly in El Salvador. Pupusas are thick and fluffy corn pancakes, typically filled with cheese and pork or beans and cheese. They are usually served with curtido (a lightly fermented cabbage slaw) and tomato salsa.

Gallo Pinto is a delicious breakfast dish made with rice and beans. It is popular all over Central America, particularly in Costa Rica. This dish is typically served with fried eggs, slices of ripe plantain, and a little bit of cheese.

Baleadas originate from Honduras. They are essentially flour tortillas filled with a variety of ingredients, including beans, cheese, eggs, avocado, and meat. This is a popular street food and is often served hot and fresh.

Tamales are ubiquitous in the Central American dining landscape. They are made by stuffing a corn dough with seasoned meat, sauce, or vegetables and then wrapping it in a banana leaf or corn husks before steaming it. Each country in the region has its own unique version of this dish.

Sopa de Mariscos is a seafood soup that is a coastal favorite in Central America, especially in Nicaragua. It is made with a rich tomato-based broth, chunks of fish, shrimp, clams, squid, and other seafood. It’s often served with fried plantains.

Personally, Central and South America aren’t my favorite destinations for food. I find many of the foods served in the region to be kind of bland. Colombia is the worst for this. In my opinion, Latin America’s best food can be found in Argentina, Peru, and Brazil. Every country has some great dishes to try. There’s nothing better than an Argentine steak or a refreshing ceviche on a hot day.

Winner: South American food is a bit more varied than Central American food.

5. Weather

South America is a vast continent with a wide range of climates, landscapes, and altitudes. This means the weather can vary widely depending on where and when you are planning to travel. However, there are a few general patterns to keep in mind when planning your trip.

The continent is mostly located south of the equator, meaning that the seasons are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s summer in South America when it’s winter in North America and Europe.

The continent is typically divided into four seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and spring.

One of my favorite places in South America, Florianopolis, Brazil

Summer in South America runs from December to February and is generally the warmest and wettest time of the year. This time is perfect for exploring the beautiful beaches in Brazil, hiking in the Patagonia region, and visiting southern cities like Buenos Aires and Montevideo. It’s also a great time for a cruise to Antarctica.

Autumn runs from March to May and is generally milder than summer. It’s a perfect time to visit places like Machu Picchu as it is less crowded, and the weather is still pleasant with less rain.

Winter in South America runs from June to August. During this season, the Andes mountains and the ski resorts in Chile and Argentina are at full operation. This is the ideal time to take part in winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. It can still be chilly in some regions, however, so be prepared for cooler temperatures.

Spring runs from September to November and offers mild weather and blooming flowers in many regions. It is also ideal for visiting the wine regions of Argentina and sampling some of the best wines in the world.

It’s important to note that many cities sit at extremely high altitudes up in the Andes. For example, La Paz in Bolivia and Quito in Ecuador both have altitudes of over 9,000 feet (2,700 meters). This means that the temperatures can be much cooler than expected, even during the warmer months of the year.

South America’s weather can also be unpredictable, and it’s a good practice to check the weather forecast frequently. Additionally, different regions in South America have different climates, so it’s important to research the weather patterns in the specific areas you plan to visit. For example, the coast of Colombia is warm and tropical year-round. South America offers a range of climates and environments that are perfect for travelers of all types.

A bridge over the Parana River between Brazil and Paraguay
A bridge over the Parana River between Brazil and Paraguay

Central America is a region known for its tropical climate, with year-round temperatures that remain relatively stable. However, there are some differences in weather patterns between the different countries, which is important for travelers to keep in mind when planning their trips.

The weather in Central America is typically divided into two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season usually runs from December to April, while the rainy season typically lasts from May to November. However, the rainy season does not necessarily mean constant rain all day long, but rather scattered afternoon showers that can occur daily.

In general, the dry season is the most popular time for travelers to visit Central America, as it offers sunny and warm weather with lower humidity. This is the ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking, going to the beach, and exploring the region’s stunning natural beauty.

The rainy season can still be a great time to visit Central America. While you may have to contend with some rain, the increased rainfall also brings out lush greenery and abundant wildlife. Crowds are also thinner during this season.

However, it’s important to note that some areas of Central America are more prone to hurricanes and tropical storms during the rainy season. So, make sure to monitor the weather closely if you are traveling during this time. Particularly if you’re traveling on the Caribbean coast.

Winner: South America because it offers all climate types. There are snowy mountains, tropical beaches, and everything in between. Central America only offers a tropical climate.

6. Accommodation

Central and South America offer a range of accommodation options for travelers, including budget-friendly hostels, mid-range hotels, Airbnbs, and luxury resorts. Here are a few examples of the types of accommodations you can expect to find in these regions.

Hostels are popular among budget travelers and backpackers. They can be found in most major cities and tourist destinations throughout Central and South America. These affordable accommodations often have shared dormitories, communal areas for cooking, common areas for socializing, and basic facilities. In both regions, a bed in a hostel dorm costs around $10-$20 per night.

A hostel dorm room
Central and South America both have great hostel culture

Guesthouses offer a similar experience to hostels but, have private guest rooms rather than dormitories with shared facilities. They can be found in small towns and villages in rural areas and offer a more local experience. A room in a guesthouse costs $20-$30 per night.

Hotels are the most common type of mid-range accommodation in Central and South America. They range in price and amenities, from basic rooms with shared bathrooms to more luxurious resorts with swimming pools, restaurants, and other amenities. In many cities, your favorite large chain hotel brands are also available. A mid-range hotel might cost $40-$60 per night.

Airbnbs are a popular alternative to hotels and can be found in most destinations throughout the region. These accommodations typically offer a more local, where guests stay in a private apartment or in a private room in the host’s house in a residential area. Airbnbs are great for long term stays because they usually include a kitchen. You can find some nice Aribnbs for $20-$30 per night.

Luxury resorts are a popular choice for travelers looking for a luxurious experience. These accommodation options can offer beautiful scenic settings with upscale amenities such as swimming pools, spas, fine dining, and personalized services like guided tours, airport transfers, and more.

Eco-lodges are another option for adventure-seeking travelers seeking a tropical and natural environment to relax and unwind. These lodges are typically located in remote areas and offer guests the opportunity to engage in ecotourism activities like hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing.

In conclusion, Central and South America offer a range of accommodation options to cater to all kinds of travelers, from backpackers to luxury seekers.

Winner: Both regions offer all types of accommodation options. Neither is really better.

7. Geographical Diversity and Natural Beauty

South America offers much more geographical diversity than Central America. South America is a continent of unparalleled beauty, from snow-capped mountains and sweeping deserts to lush tropical rainforests and pristine beaches.

The Andes Mountains which span across the continent, offer some of the most spectacular landscapes in South America. They boast towering peaks, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and unique wildlife. You can hike among the mountains, trek through remote villages, and marvel at the spectacular scenery.

In Patagonia, adventure seekers can experience some of the world’s most impressive scenery in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. These national parks are home to massive glaciers, turquoise lakes, and soaring granite peaks. The most famous glacier is Perito Moreno Glacier. You’ll find some of the world’s best hiking trails here. Patagonia is truly one of the world’s most naturally beautiful regions.

Mount Fitz Roy
Mount Fitz Roy, on the border between Argentina and Chile

The Amazon Rainforest is another of South America’s natural wonders. Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon is located in Brazil. The rest is located in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Suriname, and Guyana.

In the Amazon, visitors can explore sprawling tropical jungles teeming with wildlife, take boat trips along winding rivers, and visit indigenous communities. The Amazon is home to an incredible array of wildlife and plant species. It is the most biodiverse region on the planet. It is the world’s largest rainforest which provides a unique opportunity to explore unspoiled nature.

South America’s beaches are another must-see destination. Brazil has a coastline that spans over 7,000 km and is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches like Ipanema, Copacabana, and Jericoacoara. Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru also have some stunning beaches.

I Walked Ipanema beach, RIO DE JANEIRO
Here’s a walking video I filmed in Rio de Janeiro to give you an idea of what the beaches look like.

South America’s natural beauty also includes the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Iguazu Falls in Argentina & Brazil, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, Angel Falls in Venezuela, and many other stunning landscapes. In my opinion, South America is the most naturally beautiful continent.

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls

Central America is a bit less diverse because it’s a smaller region. The region does offer boat plenty of natural beauty including active volcanoes, pristine beaches, lush jungles, unique wildlife, and more.

The volcanoes in Central America offer breathtaking scenery and unique opportunities for exploring nature. Guatemala is one of the most popular destinations for hiking volcanoes. Visitors have a unique opportunity to experience the power of nature up close. You can hike the active Acatenango volcano and view lava flows on nearby on Fuego and Pacaya volcanoes. There are also popular volcano hikes in El Salvador. Santa Ana volcano is a popular hike. Nicaragua is also a great country for volcano hiking. Here, you can explore Masaya Volcano, Cerro Negro Volcano, and more. In Costa Rica you can witness the active Arenal Volcano surrounded by lush green forests which makes for an amazing nature experience.

Beaches are another great way to experience Central America’s natural beauty. Nicaragua is known for its surfing spots like San Juan del Sur located south of Managua. Costa Rica also has some stunning beaches along its Pacific Coast such as Manuel Antonio Beach where you can relax while admiring the natural beauty of the nearby rainforest or Tamarindo Beach with great waves perfect for surfing. El Salvador features La Libertad, an impressive beach ideal for both relaxing and exploring due to its incredible coastal views and diverse marine life. Finally, Belize harbors the small island of Caye Caulker which caters to those looking for a tranquil tropical environment surrounded by crystal clear waters.

Central America is also home to some of the most beautiful underwater landscapes and wildlife in the world. From sea turtles to whale sharks, visitors can witness a diversity of exotic marine life. There are some great dive sites in the region.

Costa Rica is renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities located around Cocos Island National Park providing visitors with an unforgettable experience of the stunning coral reefs. Honduras offers spectacular oceanic caverns such as the Blue Hole near Guanaja which is one of the most popular destinations for divers who want to spot hammerhead sharks and other mesmerizing creatures. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which spans from Mexico to Honduras, is also a great place for scuba diving enthusiasts due to its amazing biodiversity. It features over 500 fish species. Belize has some incredible spots that offer crystal clear waters perfect for diving like Ambergris Caye or Hol Chan Marine Reserve where you can admire tropical fish hidden among fascinating coral formations.

The jungles in Central America also provide a great opportunity to explore nature’s wonders. If you’re looking for wildlife sightings you should visit Costa Rica where you can spot exotic animals such as sloths, monkeys, and toucans while exploring Manuel Antonio National Park or Corcovado National Park.

Central American lakes are also very popular due to their incredible scenery such as Lake Yojoa in Honduras or Lago de Coatepeque in El Salvador where you can marvel at its emerald waters. Lake Nicaragua is also a great spot for relaxing boat rides with its picturesque views of nearby volcanoes, small islands, and islets.

Winner: South America is more geographically diverse than Central America due to its larger size. There are mountains, deserts, jungles, beaches, and more. Both regions offer plenty of natural beauty.

8. History

Central and South America are both excellent regions for history lovers. They both offer incredible ancient archaeological sites from past civilizations. If you’re interested in viewing ancient ruins, you can’t go wrong with either.

Central America is full of captivating Mayan history. For example, Guatemala is home to one of the most impressive Mayan ruins known as Tikal, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

The ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal in Guatemala

Honduras also provides a unique cultural experience with its mountain-top city of Copan. This ruins houses grand structures such as the Hieroglyphic Stairway.

In Mexico, Chichen Itza is another must-see ruin located in the Yucatan Peninsula that became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List back in 1988. The Tulum ruins are another fascinating destination. I recognize that Mexico isn’t part of Central America but many people include it in their Central America itinerary.

El Salvador also offers some interesting sites like Joya de Cerén which is an agricultural village preserved from volcanic ash, similar to Pompeii in Italy. It provides insight into how typical life was around 600 AD to 700 AD during the time of the Maya Empire.

Belize is home to one of the most impressive Mayan ruins known as Altun Ha, which was once an important trading center in the region. Belize also showcases fascinating ancient settlements like the Mayan sites of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.

Central America is also home to numerous colonial-era sites that are definitely worth exploring. In Costa Rica, Cartago’s Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles dates back to the early 17th century. Guatemala is also home to some amazing colonial sites like Antigua where visitors can learn about and admire works from Spanish missionaries such as La Merced Church or El Convento Santo Domingo.

Nicaragua is also home to numerous colonial-era sites that are worth exploring. In Leon, visitors can find the ruins of Iglesia San Juan Bautista which was built in 1610 and is one of the oldest churches in Central America. Granada showcases its extravagant baroque architecture like El Convento de San Francisco and El Convento de Santo Domingo, built in the mid-17th century.

For more modern history, the Panama Canal is a must-see. As one of the most impressive engineering accomplishments of the 20th century, it connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean allowing passage through the narrow Isthmus of Panama. Visitors can view the canal, take a tour, and visit a museum to learn more about the history.

South America also offers plenty of interesting historical sites. From ancient civilizations to colonial powers, the region has seen a range of cultural and political influences. For those planning a trip to South America, there are countless historical sites and landmarks to explore that offer a glimpse into this complex past.

One of the most iconic historical sites in South America is Machu Picchu. This ancient Incan city is located in Peru’s Andes Mountains and was built in the 15th century. Visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins and learn about the Inca culture and way of life.

The Sacred Valley is another popular destination in Peru that offers a window into the region’s history. This valley was a central hub for the Inca Empire and is home to numerous ruins and archaeological sites. Highlights include the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, each offering unique insights into the Inca civilization.

Moving further south, visitors can explore the Nazca lines in Peru’s Nazca Desert. These ancient geoglyphs were created by the Nazca people over 2,000 years ago and consist of various shapes and figures that are only visible from the air.

In addition to these ancient sites, South America is also home to numerous colonial cities that offer a glimpse into the region’s more recent history. Cities such as Quito, Ecuador, and Cusco, Peru, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are known for their well-preserved colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage. Other noteworthy colonial cities in South America include Cartagena, Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, both of which offer a unique blend of European and South American influences.

Possibly one of the most unique historical sights you can visit is Easter Island. This remote island in the South Pacific is home to the iconic Moai statues, which were carved by the Rapa Nui. It can be reached by a short flight from Chile.

Whether you’re interested in ancient civilizations or more recent history, South America has no shortage of historical sites and landmarks to explore.

Winner: This one is a draw. Both regions are renowned for their fascinating historical sites from ancient civilizations to colonial powers. The Mayan sites in Central America are just as spectacular as the Inca sites in South America. Both regions have amazingly well-preserved colonial architecture as well.

Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay

9. Nightlife and Parties

If you’re into nightlife, South America is the better destination. This region is renowned for its vibrant nightlife that goes on until sunrise.

One of the top destinations for party-goers in South America is Rio de Janeiro. This Brazilian city is famous for its samba music and street parties, especially during the annual Carnival celebrations in February.

If you’re looking for the biggest party of your life, head to Rio for Carnival. But even outside of Carnival season, Rio has plenty of nightlife options, from beach bars to nightclubs playing everything from electronic dance music to live Brazilian music. It’s one of the world’s top party destinations.

Lapa, RIO DE JANEIRO at Night (4k)
Here’s a walking video I filmed in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro to give you an idea of what the nightlife looks like

Another city that should be on your list is Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known for its tango dancing, Buenos Aires is a city that never sleeps. The party here starts late, usually after midnight, and goes on till dawn. The city boasts some of the world’s top nightclubs that cater to various music tastes, such as electronic, reggaeton, rock, and even jazz.

Medellin, Colombia, is another hotspot for party-goers. The city’s vibrant nightlife scene revolves around the Parque Lleras neighborhood, where you’ll find a wide range of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that attract locals, tourists, and digital nomads. Medellin’s electronic music scene, in particular, has been gaining recognition worldwide, with a surge of underground DJs and clubs opening in recent years.

You can find great nightlife all over South America. There are plenty of bars and clubs to explore in all of the big cities in the region. You’ll also find laid-back beach bars all along the coasts. You can party with other travelers, expats, and locals.

Some other South American cities that are worth checking out for their nightlife include Salvador in Brazil, Valparaíso in Chile, and Máncora, Peru. No matter where you go in South America, make sure to experience the nightlife that the region is famous for.

Central America doesn’t have the same flashy nightlife seen in large South American cities but it does have a unique and laid-back party scene that makes it a great destination for those looking for a good time. The nightlife in Central America is a bit more laid back and casual with beach bars and live music. In many towns, nightlife caters more to tourists and backpackers than locals.

If you’re looking for a city that offers both a thriving city scene as well as beachfront bars and nightclubs, then Panama City is your perfect destination. The historic Casco Viejo district is a must-visit area, known for its orchestra events, jazz concerts, and live music performances.

Another great destination is San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This beach town is a magnet for surfers and backpackers. The nightlife here is vibrant, offering everything from beach parties to live music and themed events. Sunday Funday, a beach crawl that takes you to different bars and clubs throughout the day and finishes with a massive pool party, is worth experiencing.

If you’re looking for a quieter but still lively nightlife experience, head to Antigua in Guatemala. The city has many bars, cafes, and restaurants that turn into live music venues once the night falls. A popular spot is Café No Sé, known for its live music and mezcal bar.

Caye Caulker in Belize is another exciting party destination to visit, with a selection of chilled-out beach bars that are perfect for watching the sunset. After the sun goes down, you can head over to the island party at the infamous Lazy Lizard Bar.

Utila in Honduras is also known for its lively party scene. You can enjoy a range of drinks, including the local favorite, Honduran rum and Coke, while meeting new people and enjoying the island’s warm and festive atmosphere.

Other notable nightlife destinations in Central America include Bocas del Toro in Panama, Roatán in Honduras, and Jaco in Costa Rica. Central America’s nightlife scene might not be as glamorous as other parts of the world, but it’s still very much worth exploring. The relaxed, casual atmosphere of the beach bars and laid-back vibe make it a unique experience.

Winner: South America offers better nightlife than Central America.

The view of Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain
Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain

10. Cities

If you’re a city lover, South America is the better destination. The continent is full of unique and exciting cities to explore.

  • Rio de Janeiro: First on the list is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This spectacular city is known for its iconic landmarks like the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Copacabana Beach. Rio also has a thriving arts and culture scene. It’s home to some of the world’s best dance clubs, museums, and endless nightlife options. In my opinion, Rio is the most naturally beautiful city on Earth.

  • Buenos Aires: Known as the cultural hub of South America, Buenos Aires also boasts a fantastic food scene that features everything from traditional Argentinean steaks to international cuisine. This is one of the greatest cities in South America. I spent about a month and a half here and can’t wait to return.

  • Medellin: Medellin, Colombia is another must-visit city thanks to its beautiful scenery, warm climate, and friendly locals. It’s known as the city of eternal spring. This city has transformed itself into a hub of creativity and sustainable social living. It has also become an extremely popular destination for expats and digital nomads over the past decade. The city is also naturally beautiful. It sits in a valley in the Andes surrounded by mountains. This is another one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities, in my opinion.

  • São Paulo: Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, is a thriving financial and cultural center that offers a diverse range of art exhibitions, food, and music. It’s home to some of the region’s best restaurants that offer both regional and international cuisine. Be sure to visit the trendy Vila Madalena neighborhood to check out its incredible street art.

  • Cusco: Cusco Peru is the gateway to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, making it one of South America’s most popular tourist destinations. But Cusco’s appeal doesn’t end with the ruins. The city is also known for its beautiful colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and excellent cuisine.

  • Cartagena: Cartagena, Colombia is a picturesque walled city that showcases beautiful colorful buildings, beautiful beaches, and lively neighborhoods. You can enjoy a night of salsa dancing, explore the colonial Old Town, and sample delicious seafood.

Other notable cities to visit in South America include Bogota, Colombia; Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; and La Paz, Bolivia. Each of these cities offers its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that will make your South American adventure an unforgettable one.

Florida Street, Buenos Aires, Argentina Virtual Walking Tour (4K)
Here’s a walking tour I filmed in Buenos Aires to give you an idea of what the city looks like.

People don’t really visit Central America for the cities. Many visitors actively avoid passing through large cities such as Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, San Jose, and Managua because they are so chaotic, dangerous, and simply uninteresting for travelers. There are some interesting large cities for travelers to visit.

Panama City, Panama is a dynamic metropolis that offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. It is known for its breathtaking skyline and incredible nightlife. Visitors can explore the historic Casco Viejo district, go shopping in the upscale boutiques, or take a stroll along the Panama Canal.

San Salvador is the cultural and economic hub of El Salvador. The city offers vibrant markets, delicious cuisine, and a lively cultural scene. Visitors can wander through the bustling street markets, sample the famous pupusas, or explore the many museums and historic landmarks that dot the city.

Antigua, Guatemala is a picturesque town nestled in the Guatemalan highlands. It is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes. Visitors can tour the many historic churches and buildings, browse the local markets, or hike up to the nearby Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint for a panoramic view of the city.

Winner: South America has bigger, more diverse, and more interesting cities than Central America.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, one of my favorite cities

11. Culture

Central and South America are rich in cultural diversity. Each country has its own unique traditions, cuisine, customs, and history.

One difference between Central and South America is the language. Spanish is the dominant language everywhere in Latin America, except for Brazil where Portuguese is spoken. In Central America, English is spoken in Belize. Some indigenous languages are also spoken in Central and South America, such as Quechua and Aymara.

When it comes to food, both regions share some commonalities. Rice, beans, and corn are staples in many dishes, and there is a strong emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables. However, there are some differences in cuisine between the regions. In Central America, dishes such as pupusas, tamales, and gallo pinto are popular. In South America, dishes such as ceviche, empanadas, and asado (barbecue) are more common.

Another significant cultural difference is the music and dance. In Central America, traditional dances such as merengue and salsa are popular. In South America, you will find a wide variety of dance styles, from the samba in Brazil to the tango in Argentina.

Religion is also an essential part of the culture in Central and South America. In Central America, the majority of the population is Catholic, while in South America, there is a mix of Catholicism and Protestantism, with indigenous religions also playing a significant role in some countries.

When it comes to art, both regions have a rich history of indigenous art and craft traditions, including weaving, pottery, and textiles. In both regions, the influence of colonial powers can also be seen in the art and architecture. There is plenty of Spanish colonial architecture all throughout Latin America.

Despite the differences, there are also many cultural similarities between Central and South America. Both regions value family, community, and hospitality, and there is a strong sense of pride in national identity and heritage. Additionally, there is a love of music, dance, and celebration, with festivals and holidays playing a significant role in both regions.

While Central and South America may have some cultural differences, they share many similarities. Many countries share similar histories. The Spanish language is also spoken across the region.

Winner: There isn’t really a winner here. Both regions offer plenty of culture. The cultures of Central and South America are also similar in many ways.

12. Adventure

South America is the ultimate destination for adventure-seekers. With its varied landscapes, rugged mountain ranges, and exotic wildlife, there’s no shortage of activities to get your adrenaline pumping.

Patagonia, located in southern Chile and Argentina, is one of the best regions in the world for hiking. The scenery is unparalleled, with jagged peaks, glaciers, and pristine lakes. There are several epic treks to choose from, including the famous W Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and the Fitz Roy Trek in Argentina. Peru also offers some phenomenal hiking opportunities. The Inca trail trek is one of the most well-known.

Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina, The Southernmost city on earth

The Andes Mountains offer world-class skiing opportunities during the winter season (June-August in the southern hemisphere). Some of the most popular ski resorts in South America are located in Argentina and Chile.

The Andes also offer incredible mountaineering opportunities, with some of the highest peaks outside of the Himalayas. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, is a popular destination for climbers. There are plenty of climbing opportunities in Patagonia.

The Death Road, located in Bolivia, is one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The narrow dirt road descends 3,600 meters over a 64-km stretch, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and jungle. It’s a popular destination for thrill-seekers who want to cycle down the famous road. Another unique destination in Bolivia is Solar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

The Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, offer some of the most unique and diverse marine life in the world. Snorkeling and diving trips can take you face-to-face with sea lions, penguins, sharks, and various fishes.

The Amazon rainforest is a destination unlike any other, offering visitors the chance to spot exotic animals such as jaguars, anacondas, and sloths. You can explore the vast jungle on hikes, canoe rides, or by staying at a jungle lodge for a few days. Trekking in the Peruvian Amazon was one of my favorite parts of my South America trip.

Another adventurous destination to visit is Easter Island. This remote and mysterious island is home to a number of impressive statues, known as Moai, that are said to have been built by the Rapa Nui people.

Central America is also an ideal destination for adventure seekers. This paradise offers a wide range of thrilling activities, from hiking through lush jungles to diving into the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Central America is home to numerous hiking trails that cater to different skill levels, from beginners to experienced trekkers. One of the most popular treks is Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala. Here, you can witness stunning views of the nearby active Fuego Volcano.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica is another top hiking destination. On Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, you can hike up the twin volcanoes, Maderas and Concepción.

Central America also boasts some of the world’s best diving spots. The Caribbean coast is teeming with colorful marine life and mesmerizing coral reefs. The Great Blue Hole in Belize is a giant submarine sinkhole, surrounded by thriving coral reefs and inhabited by various species of sharks.

In Roatán, Honduras, you can explore the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Coiba National Park, Panama is also a top dive destination.

Central America’s rivers, lakes, and coastal areas offer incredible opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting. In Río Pacuare, Costa Rica you can experience thrilling whitewater rafting through pristine rainforests.

On Lake Atitlan, Guatemala you can Kayak or canoe through the calm waters of this stunning volcanic lake, surrounded by lush hills and charming villages.

On Río Cangrejal, Honduras you can Embark on an adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting adventure through the dense jungles of Pico Bonito National Park.

Zip Lining and Canopy Tours are also popular for adventure seekers. In Monteverde, Costa Rica you can glide through the cloud forest canopy and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

A toucan in Central America
Central America has some spectacular wildlife

In Selvatura Park, Guatemala you can zip lining in the heart of the Petén jungle which is home to various species of monkeys, tropical birds, and exotic plants. On Mombacho Volcano, Nicaragua you can zip line through the cloud forest and coffee plantations surrounding this dormant volcano.

Horseback Riding is another popular adventure activity in Central America. In La Fortuna, Costa Rica, you can ride through the picturesque countryside with a backdrop of the impressive Arenal Volcano. You can also explore the Copán ruins in Honduras on horseback. Ometepe Island is another popular destination for horseback riding

Winner: There are plenty of adventures to be had in both regions but South America offers a wider range of adventure activities. Mostly due to the Andes mountain range.

13. Language

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in both Central and South America. Learning basic Spanish is highly recommended for travelers. It will allow you to communicate with locals, read signs, ask for directions, and understand menus. Speaking some Spanish can also lead to more authentic experiences. You can connect with locals and make local friends if you can communicate with them. It’s easy to make friends in Latin America if you speak some Spanish. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Before traveling to Latin America, I highly recommend you take some time to study Spanish. In most of the world, you can get around with just English. That’s not really the case in Latin America. Most people in the region don’t speak English. You don’t need to be fluent but knowing some basic Spanish will be extremely useful.

Brazil, the largest country in South America, has Portuguese as its official language. Although Portuguese and Spanish have some similarities, they are distinct languages. If you plan to visit Brazil, learning basic Portuguese will be greatly beneficial.

I spent 2.5 months in Brazil last year. Before my trip, I assumed that I would get by just fine with my intermediate Spanish. I was wrong. It was a struggle. I found Spanish to be pretty much useless. Before you travel to Brazil, I highly recommend you take some time to learn basic Portuguese. When I first arrived in Brazil, it was a struggle to get around. After I learned some Portuguese phrases, it became much easier.

Central and South America are home to a variety of indigenous languages, which are still spoken in rural areas and by specific ethnic groups. While it’s not necessary for travelers to learn these languages, being aware of their existence is important.

Other than other tourists, it’s rare to meet an English speaker in Central and South America. Even in large cities. I was surprised by this while visiting Buenos Aires. Very few people speak English. You will encounter some English speakers in major tourist destinations, large hotels, and touristy restaurants. Outside of that, most only people speak Spanish.

As you prepare for your trip, focusing on learning basic Spanish and Portuguese (if you plan to visit Brazil) will be the most beneficial. This will enable you to communicate with locals and navigate much more easily.

Winner: In Central America, you can get by with only Spanish. It’s a good idea to learn some basic Portuguese if you plan to travel to Brazil.

Final Score: Central America Vs South America

Central America

Central America wins in the following categories

  • Cost

  • Ease of Travel

  • Language

South America

South America wins in the following categories:

  • Safety

  • Food

  • Weather

  • Natural Beauty

  • Nightlife

  • Cities

  • Adventure

In this comparison, South America is the winner. It offers a wider variety of experiences, from stunning natural scenery to vibrant cities. In addition, the food and nightlife are excellent. The safety is also slightly better than in Central America. Overall, South America has everything you need for an unforgettable travel experience.

That said, Central America is still a great travel destination. It’s cheaper, easier to get around, and you can navigate the whole region with only Spanish. If you have less time to travel, Central America is a great choice because the region is so compact. You can travel to multiple countries in just a couple of weeks or you can travel the whole region in just a couple of months.

Both regions offer plenty of history and culture. There are also great accommodation options available everywhere. Central and South America are two of the world’s best travel destinations, in my opinion. Every world traveler should visit these destinations at some point in their travels.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t really a fair comparison. South America is a much larger place than Central America. There are multiple countries in South America that are bigger than all of Central America. South America also has a much larger population than Central America. It’s not surprising that it has better cities, nature, etc.

A view of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay from a rooftop
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

Who Should Travel to Central America?

Central America is the perfect choice for travelers seeking adventure, history, culture, affordable prices, and relaxation.

This region is a great choice for budget travelers. Central America offers plenty of affordable travel options. There are hostels in all of the popular beach towns and major tourist areas. Hostel culture in Central America is great. Budget-conscious travelers will also enjoy the low cost of food and transportation. Activities are also pretty affordable. This affordability allows you to travel longer and see more.

Adventure seekers will also enjoy Central America. The region offers a wide range of activities to keep your adrenaline pumping, from zip-lining through the jungle canopy in Costa Rica to exploring ancient Mayan ruins in Guatemala. You can also hike up an active volcano, scuba dive with exotic marine life, or surf world-class waves along the Pacific coast. It’s a great adventure travel destination.

Central America is also a perfect choice for those looking for some history and culture. The region offers travelers a range of cultural experiences waiting to be discovered. From the ancient civilizations of the Maya and Aztecs to the charming colonial cities of Antigua, Granada, and León, history buffs will find plenty to explore. You can immerse yourself in the vibrant local markets and colorful festivals. Those interested in learning Spanish should also consider Central America. Guatemala is a popular choice. There are plenty of language schools to choose from.

Those interested in eco-tourism will also enjoy Central America. The region is home to an array of biodiverse ecosystems, making it a great choice for nature lovers. Visit the cloud forests of Monteverde, the pristine beaches of Belize, or the lush rainforests of Panama to witness the incredible flora and fauna of this unique region. Many Central American countries have established eco-friendly accommodations. There are also Central America tours that support conservation efforts.

Who Should Travel to South America?

A South America tour has something for every traveler. Whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, history, relaxation, nightlife, luxury, or a combination of all of these things, South America has it all.

South America is the perfect choice for those looking for an adventure. The continent offers a vast array of activities. For example, you can hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, mountain bike down Bolivia’s Death Road, or trek through the Patagonian wilderness. There’s no shortage of thrilling adventure activities. The continent’s diverse terrain, from the soaring Andes to the lush Amazon rainforest, provides endless opportunities for exploration.

Nature lovers will enjoy the natural beauty of South America. It is unparalleled. You can witness the awe-inspiring power of Iguazu Falls, the unique biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands, the breathtaking landscapes of the Atacama Desert, or the towering peaks of the Andes. There are countless national parks and protected areas to explore. South America offers endless opportunities for wildlife spotting and eco-tourism.

City people will also enjoy South America. The region is home to some of the world’s most vibrant and captivating cities. From the bustling metropolis of São Paulo to the historic charm of Cartagena, each city offers its own unique blend of culture, architecture, and nightlife. Explore the colorful streets of Buenos Aires, the picturesque neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, or the colonial elegance of Quito for a truly unforgettable urban experience.

Those who are into history and culture will also enjoy traveling to South America. You can visit ancient ruins, colonial towns, and indigenous communities to learn about the continent’s past. Immerse yourself in the fascinating histories of the Inca, Moche, and other pre-Columbian civilizations, or delve into the colonial past of cities like Cusco and Lima.

Foodies will love South America. From the ceviche of Peru to the steaks of Argentina, each country boasts its own culinary treasures.

South America can also be a great budget travel destination. There are hostels in all of the major destinations. Food and transport are relatively affordable. Camping is also a possibility in many places. It’s a great destination for long term travel due to the low cost.

South America caters to a wide range of interests and travel styles. With its incredible food, diverse adventure activities, breathtaking natural beauty, captivating cities, and rich history, there’s truly something for everyone on this continent. It’s an easy place to visit independently. There are also South America tours available.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

My Experience

After traveling in both regions, I prefer South America. The main reason is the natural beauty. I’m a mountain person. The Andes is one of the world’s most impressive mountain ranges. Hiking in Patagonia was incredible. The Amazon River is spectacular as well. Trekking through the rainforest and catching a catfish from the shore is one of my favorite travel memories.

Another reason I prefer South America is the weather. I really don’t enjoy tropical climates. I much prefer cooler weather. The cool weather in the Andes region suits me best. Central America was a bit too hot and humid for me. There are cooler spots in the highlands.

I also find South American cities more interesting as well. I’m not really a city person but I do enjoy spending some time exploring cities. I was particularly impressed with Rio de Janeiro. I think it’s the most naturally beautiful city on earth. The way the city, hills, and beach all blend together is incredible. I also enjoyed spending time in Buenos Aires, Medellin, and Lima.

The author at Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Central American cities aren’t as interesting. They are large and sprawling. I do have to say that I enjoyed Guatemala City for some reason.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between traveling to Central America or South America ultimately depends on what type of experience you’re looking for. Both regions offer plenty of culture, stunning natural beauty, and a wealth of activities and attractions to enjoy. They are both affordable places to travel. Both regions are also easy to get around. These are great destinations for first time travelers and experienced travelers alike.

Central America may be a better choice for those who prefer a shorter vacation. The region is compact. This allows you to see more in less time. South America offers a more extensive range of destinations and activities for those who have more time to explore. Both regions offer unlimited opportunities for adventure.

It’s difficult to compare these two regions because South America is so much larger than Central America. Central America covers an area of 523,780 square kilometers while South America covers an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers. That makes South America around 34 times larger than Central America. Colombia alone is twice as large as all of Central America. Central America is also much smaller in population. Central America has a population of around 52 million people. To compare, South America has around 440 million people.

The point is that it’s difficult to compare these two regions apples to apples because one is so much larger than the other. It’s not really a fair comparison.

That said, both regions share many similarities historically and culturally. They are both located in the same general region as well. They’re both in the western hemisphere. It makes sense that travelers have a hard time choosing between the two.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Whether you choose to visit Central America or South America on your next trip, hopefully, this guide has provided valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Have you traveled to South and Central America? Share your experience in the comments below!

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