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The 6 Most Scenic Flights in South America

Where: Chile
October 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM | by | ()

If you think the above photo is beautiful—it's our Andes view from LAN Airlines flight 158 from Santiago to Calama—then get ready to have your mind blown and your bucketlist overflowing.

South America is a land of such staggeringly varied terrain, from desert to glaciers and rainforest to snow-capped peaks, that flying over it without requesting a window seat is one of the biggest travel mistakes one can make.

Now, which route? Get your camera ready because, using our own past travel knowledge and a passion for experiencing the extremes, we've laid out the Six Scenic South America Routes to Fly Before You Die:

View LAN's Must-See South America routes in a larger map
Click on the route lines or destination airports above for more info

From Santiago, Chile (SCL) to Calama, Chile (CJC)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320
Flight length: 2 hours
Why it's awesome: Up and out from Santiago, the plane heads north alongside the snow-capped Andes. About two-thirds of the way through the flight, the terrain abruptly drops from jagged mountains to desert flats, with the occasional dry bed of a former salt lake. It looks a bit like the surface of Mars, then all of a sudden the plane lands in what feels like the middle of nowhere, but which is actually the gateway to the driest place on Earth: the Atacama Desert. We just flew this route ourselves and—pro tip—grab a window seat on the right side of the aircraft (not over the wing) for the absolute best views.

From Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE) to the Galapagos Islands (GPS)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320
Flight length: 2 hours
Why it's awesome: You're flying and it's all ocean...ocean...ocean and then BOOM, the dots of lush greenery that makes up the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands. The airport at Baltra is closest to the National Park, and landing here while gawking out the window is likely to give you the chills that come from true exploration.

From Miami, Florida (MIA) to Bogota, Colombia (BOG)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320
Flight length: 3.7 hours
Why it's awesome: Leaving Miami, you hit the Caribbean quickly and then, on a clear day, it's a hop over Cuba and down into the green of South America. Over Colombia, the ground is flower factories—thousands of them—plus the Amazon plain.

From Santiago, Chile (SCL) to Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320
Flight length: 2.50 hours
Why it's awesome: We don't have to tell you about the excellent scenery around Patagonia, but when you go way, way down to Punta Arenas, your flight will pass over the third largest ice cap in the world, after Antarctica and Greenland. Down there, it's still the Ice Age.

From Santiago, Chile (SCL) to Buenos Aires, Argentina (AEP)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320 or Airbus A318
Flight length: 1.30 hours
Why it's awesome: This route does the very cool thing of coming close to "touch" Aconcagua, the highest mountain peak in the Americas at 22,841 feet. It's part of the Andes, so flying this way means you'll have flat terrain for a moment, then the spike of Aconcagua, then flat terrain again, like a strong beat on a heart rate monitor.

From Buenos Aires, Argentina (AEP) to Iguazu Falls, Argentina (IGR)
LAN aircraft used: Airbus A320
Flight length: 1.25 hours
Why it's awesome: From Buenos Aires, you get the view of the metropolis before heading up into the dense forest. Then, all of a sudden, a column of mist on the horizon. This column, shooting up into the air, is the mist above Iguazu Falls, very visible from an airplane.

[Photos: Jaunted, Joe Corrigan]

Archived Comments:

Miss another one...

Please dont miss this one on your list,the flight from São Paulo/GRU arriving in Rio/SDU it´s for sure in my opinion one of the prettiest flight someone can admirate,it´s so pretty that one of the most famous Brazilian Artist Tom Jobin made a song "Samba do avião". I made two of those on the list departing from Santiago to Calama and also to Buenos aires , both are pretty mountain scenary.