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The Galápagos, Machu Picchu & More: Our Best Cheap Flights to South America

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Like many Americans, I'm guilty of overlooking South American destinations as some of the best places to travel on the globe. It's time to change that.

From Machu Picchu and Patagonia to the Galápagos Islands and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, there's something in South America that has earned a spot on travelers' bucket lists. Getting deep into South America has typically been fairly expensive … but that's not the case anymore.

While flights have been more expensive across the board this year, deals to fly down to even some of the most exceptional sites throughout South America have stayed low. Even as we've seen incredibly cheap fares to the Hawaiian islands, down to Mexico, and throughout Europe, the emergence of cheap flights to South America has been hard to ignore.

We've sent Thrifty Traveler Premium members a slew of alerts about cheap flights to South America lately, including sub-$400 flights to Peru and Ecuador, some points and miles deals to places like Bogota, Colombia, and Santiago, Chile, and even some lie-flat business class offerings to destinations like Brazil.

Here's a look at the cheap flights to South America we've been seeing and why these ultra-low fares are so noteworthy right now.


Why Are Flights To South America So Cheap?

We've said this before, but it bears repeating: Competition is the main driver of cheap flights.

In South America, there are a few standout budget-friendly air carriers that are putting big pressure on the major U.S. airlines that fly to South America every day.

The two main culprits are Avianca and COPA Airlines. 

COPA Airlines flight deal 

This COPA flight deal was one of our most popular deals of the past few months, namely because it offered some crazy cheap fares down to South American countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, and more.

And just a few days ago, Avianca wrapped up a sale of its own offering some ultra-cheap fares down to South America as well. 

Avianca flight deal to South America 

From Medellin and Cartagena in Colombia to Guayaquil and Quito in Ecuador, Avianca's network is pretty huge. And their latest sale saw almost all of their routes offered at a steep discount.

But even if you don't want to ever fly one of these budget carriers, this is great news for you. Because when COPA and Avianca put their fares on sale, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United all take notice and either have to match those low fares or get beat in competition by the low-cost carriers.

Read on for some of our best examples of U.S. and Canadian airlines getting competitive with these low-cost carriers.


Cheap Flights to Visit Machu Picchu

High in the Peruvian Andes Mountains is a place we know you know: Machu Picchu. At least that's what it's been called for centuries, even though recently historians have determined that we have been calling it the wrong name!

The Incan citadel was built in the 15th century and abandoned soon after. Now, it's one of the Seven Wonders of the World, drawing hikers and travelers from all over the world eager to scratch this incomparable destination off their bucket lists.

The hike is rough, but just getting to the gates of Machu Picchu is no walk in the park, either. First, you need to get to Peru, and preferably for cheap. Luckily, that part has gotten easier these days … and cheaper!

Peru flight deal 

Thrifty Traveler Premium members received this deal to Lima, Peru with fares starting at just $290 roundtrip from the U.S. That's less than many domestic flights and about $300 less than the typical prices to get to the Andean country.

FLL to LIM airfare 

These phenomenal values will get you into Peru, but another quick, cheap flight is required to get you into the Andes so you can start your journey up the mountain. Connecting flights into Cusco aren't expensive, and normally run around $100 roundtrip.

Let's look at one more way to get down to Lima, and that's in a lie-flat business class seat.

Lima business class flight deal 

This Delta business class deal connected a few U.S. cities to Lima (LIM) with a comfy, lie-flat seat on the long-haul routes down to South America. So once you've arrived in Lima, you'll be well-rested and ready to explore the beautiful Peruvian countryside.

This fare is about half-off what you would normally expect to pay for a lie-flat seat to Lima, so hopefully some of our subscribers picked up business class seats for two for the price of one this year!


Cheap Flights to Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

How many hammerhead sharks have you seen in your life? Or blue-footed boobies? Do you get to see a lot of land or marine iguanas during your daily walks?

The Galapagos Islands can help you check off those boxes and hundreds of other animal species you've never even thought about. How about some racer snakes, lava herons, fur seals, pink iguanas, batfish, flamingoes, lava gulls…OK, I'll stop.

There are actually too many incredible, exotic species of animals to count in the Galapagos Islands, which is why it's considered one of the wildest places on Earth.

A close up of a lizard 

Set in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are high on the list of many nature enthusiasts. The well-protected wildlife hotspot isn't always easy to get to, but flight deals to Ecuador or even directly into the Galapagos themselves aren't out of reach.

This deal was rare, offering one-stop flights straight onto Baltra Island (GPS) in the Galapagos for under $500! We couldn't believe our eyes.

Cheap flight to the Galapagos 

Even if this crazy Avianca fare from New York City (JFK) isn't available, we find flight deals to Ecuador pretty regularly and send them to our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers. With these deals, you can explore the beautiful, mountainous mainland of Ecuador and then book a cheap connecting flight onto the islands to supplement your trip!

Quito Ecuador flight deal 

Normally, travelers can count on seeing fares in the $600s and $700s down to Ecuador, so we were thrilled to pass along these $300-something roundtrip fares last month.

Both Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE) have been featured in Thrifty Traveler Premiumflight deals over the last few months, meaning your trip to Ecuador is closer than you think – and cheaper, too.


Cheap Flights to Chile and Patagonia

Patagonia is almost mythical in its beauty. Take a walk in Torres del Paine National Park and you'll see crystal clear, blue-green waters, a sprawling glacier, and jagged peaks all in one frame. It's screensaver stuff, but you'll want to leave your laptop behind for this journey.

A view of a mountain 

It seems like most people are resigned that they'll never see Patagonia beyond their computer screen, but flights to Chile can be really affordable. In fact, flights down to Chile might be cheaper than ever.

This flight deal we sent out just a few days ago included more than 100 North American cities with fares in the $500s and $600s down to Santiago, Chile (SCL).

Santiago Chile flight deal 

Thrifty Traveler Premium members got a chance to book these for peak summer in South America, too (wintertime for us in the U.S.). Usually, these fares are closer to $1,000 than $600s and if you're based in smaller cities like Chattanooga (CHA), Corpus Christi (CRP), and Dayton (DAY), that could be a four-figure fare. This deal was special!

After you book one of these Santiago flights, take a look at the connecting flights to Patagonia from there. They aren't hard to come by starting at just $95 roundtrip (or less!).

Flights all the way down to Chile are long, but there's a way to get there in comfy-lie flat seat. Check out this business class deal.

LATAM business class flight deal 

Get deals like this in your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+!

That's a very comfortable ride down to South America all for just 45,000 miles each way. We aren't used to seeing award space (flights bookable with points and miles) like this open up very often, so we hope you got a chance to book it!


Cheap Flights to Colombia

Colombia might fly under the radar compared to other South American destinations, but we think it deserves your attention.

The beautiful South American country borders two oceans, has a picture-perfect climate year-round, and boasts a pair of vibrant, distinct cities where you'll never be searching for something to do.

Maybe the best part about visiting Colombia this year or next? The flight prices. It stands out as one of the absolute best destinations for cheap flights right now. Take a look at this.

Cheap flights to Bogota 

These low prices are long gone now, but you can get the next deal sent to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium!

Any of the dozens of fares from this deal would be perfect to plan a trip around.

But why use cash when you can use miles? This Delta SkyMiles flash sale to Bogotá (BOG) is just one example of how cheap it can be to fly to Colombia.

Cheap flights to Bogota 

Our editor Kyle visited Colombia last year and loved the country. He said it was a destination worthy of a few more days of exploration, so don't skimp on the length of your trip if you can. Plus, out of the blue, he found what might be his favorite hotel in the world: Hotel Las Islas Baru near Cartagena. Speaking of Cartagena…

Cheap flights to Colombia 

That's right! It's not just Bogotá deals that we've sent our subscribers. If the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cartagena has caught your eye, you could fly straight there, too.


Cheap Flights to Brazil

Never overlooked or forgotten is Brazil, the largest country and one of the most popular destinations to travel to in South America.

From Carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the World Tango Festival of Buenos Aires and everything in between, these two countries have a seemingly endless supply of memories that are yours for the making. Cheap flights to these hotspots aren't always easy to find. Thrifty Traveler Premium members wouldn't know that by looking at the deals we've sent them lately, though…

Brazil flight deal 

This flight deal was a doozy! It's not easy to find cheap flights to this classic South American destination, but Premium members were treated to this one. Plus, you could have booked this deal during Rio's famed Carnival celebration.

Plus, if you're hoping to ride in style on your way to Brazil, we also sent out this phenomenal United Polaris business class deal to our subscribers recently.

United Polaris Business Class 

Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members also get rare business class deals, mistake fares, points and miles alerts, and more!

So go catch a futebol match, celebrate in the streets during February's Carnival, or hike in the sprawling Amazon rainforest this year or next!


Bottom Line

While many travelers are waiting for flight prices to drop to the busiest destinations across the world, savvy travelers are looking to visit these once-in-a-lifetime South American spots.

With a cheap flight, you can see impossibly rare wildlife species of the Galapagos Islands, hike the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, or see Patagonia with your own eyes this year. Cheap flights to South America are here, so it's time to get to booking.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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