It is no secret that South America is the world’s most catholic continent with 49% of the population practising catholicism. Apart from Catholicism, there are numerous other religions and spiritual beliefs in South America, all of which have coexisted long before Christopher Columbus discovered America. This combination of beliefs created the need for many major constructions, built in perfect harmony with nature. Apart from their mystic value, these buildings became true are architectural jewels. Whether you are a believer or not, if you travel through this region during Holy Week, or as they now call it, Tourism Week, there are 9 religious attractions in South America you must visit.
1. Mount Monserrate (Colombia)
Mount Monserrate of Bogotá (Cierro Monserrate) sits at more than 3 kilometers above sea level. At the summit of this hill is the Monserrate Sanctuary, the Basílica Santuario del Señor Caído de Monserrate. You can access it on foot, by funicular or by cabel car. The basilica was built in a neo gothic architectural style and the locals say that the temple was built by pilgrims. Every time one visited the temple, he brought at least one brick for the construction. Apart from its religious meaning, this place is truly charming and has a natural appeal. If you are a gastronomy lover, the temple is also worth the visit.
Travelling tip: If you want to discover the Monserrate Hill and other must-see points of interest of the Colombian capital in one single day, reserve the Colombia4u Bogotá Grand City Tour.
2. Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (Colombia)
Although referred to as a Cathedral, there is no bishop working there. This was clearly meant to be a religious construction, but its touristic appeal has become the central purpose rather than is religious function.The Salt Cathedral is in the city of Zipaquirá and is one of the most emblematic architectural works in Colombia. Inside the Cathedral you will find a great collection of salt and marble sculptures. Every art lover will fall in love with this place.
Travelling tip: Discover the Salt Cathedral with this Tour to Zipaquirá by Train and, besides discovering this emblematic touristic attraction of Colombia, you will be able to travel from Bogotá inside a late XIXth
century steam train.This is one of the must-see religious attractions in South America.
3. La Popa Monastery(Colombia)
La Popa Monastery in Cartagena (Cierro de la Popa) is a very important place for catholics because it is home to the monastery in honor of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the city, built by brother Alonso de la Cruz Paredes. However, before brother Alonso got there, Indian and African slaves worshiped the god “Buziriaco” on this hill. Catholicism won the fight for the place, but the slaves kept on celebrating during the colonial time and it is said that “cumbia”, the famous musical rhythm, was born at that time. Even if you are not religious, you will be able to enjoy the best panoramic view of Cartagena from La Popa Monastery.
4. Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado (Brazil)
There are endless reasons to visit Christ the Redeemer Statue: it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and one of the most important touristic sites in Brazil. One of the most amazing facts about this statue is that nobody accidentally died during its construction: that was unprecedented at the time considering the ambition of the project. The statue is at the summit of Morro del Corcovado and is 30 meters high – not taking into account its 8 meters pedestal.
5. Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Brazil)
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, is an impressive building that cannot go unnoticed when you visit the city. Its peculiar pyramidal shape is one the most beautiful elements of its architecture. When you enter you will see a giant cross and four colourful stained glass windows that cause extraordinary reflections of the light. Besides the Cathedral, the Sacred Art Musem, in the basement and is also worth a visit.
6. Aparecida do Norte (Brazil)
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is located in a city inside São Paulo. This is the second largest cathedral in the world, after the Basilica of Saint Paul in the Vatican. The picutre of the Virgin Mary, found by three fishermen in the XVIIIth century, is inside this basilica and every year about 7 million people visit the city. This basilica is one of the most important religious attractions in South America and in São Paulo. Nearby the sanctuary you can also visit the Sacred Art Museum, the theme park and the aquarium.
Travelling tip: You can make a one-day trip to São Paulo to see the Aparecida do Norte and discover the religious culture of Brazil. Take the Tour to Aparecida do Norte of Saopaulo4u and do not worry about how to organise your trip!
7. Lujan Basilica (Argentina)
Our Lady of Luján is the patron saint of Argentina and the neo gothic basilisk named after her has a very important meaning for catholics in both Argentina and worldwide. The basilisk is seventy kilometers away from the City of Buenos Aires and was built between 1887 and 1935. Visiting the city of Luján – apart from discovering this impressive sanctuary – will enable you to take a break from the frantic way of life in the capital of Argentina and take a peaceful walk next to the river.
8. Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (Argentina)
Christ the Redeemer of the Andes is located in Mendoza next to Uspallata Pass, at the border of Argentina and Chile. As a matter of fact, the monument is a peace memorium: between 1898 and 1904 both nations came very close to war because of a border-related conflict. The Christ is almost seven meters high and weighs four tons. Apart from being a christian symbol this is also a very important historical reference.
Travelling tip: the best way to discover Christ the Redeemer of the Andes is with the Mendoza Alta Montaña Tour, a trip that includes the most important points of interest of the Argentinian Andes.
9. Santa Lucia Hill (Chile)
Located in the heart of Santiago de Chile, this hill owes its name to Pedro de Valdivia who decided to name it thus because he founded the city on the December 13th of 1540, day of Saint Lucy of Syracuse. This hill and the neo gothic chapel are the only religious references in the area, nowadays it has become one of the most touristic, historical and cultural points of interest of the city – and a must-see religious attractions if you go to Chile. Visitors can go to the Neptune Fountain – dedicated to the Roman god of the seas – and Capolicán. There is also an old canon, the Hidalgo Fort and a beautiful garden. If you go to Santiago, you must visit this place!
Travelling tip: Do not miss out on Santiago’s attractions. Discover the most emblematic destinations in Santiago de Chile with the Santiago City Tour with Chile4u.
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If the Catholic faith and many other religions play an important role in South America, there is an interesting exception: Uruguay; a secular state where most atheists in the continent live. If you travel to Montevideo, you will surely go to the Matriz Cathedral, a Buddhist temple and a synagogue but religion is not a transcendental element of the culture unlike the majority of its neighbouring countries.
Enjoy every day of your holidays in South America during the Tourism Week. Daytours4u offers you useful and up-to-date information for every destination you wish to visit. You can prepare a travel itinerary including all the unmissable attractions, with both the classical tours and the less conventional excursions so that you can enjoy the a wonderful experience in this magical and mysterious continent.
By: Keilma Rojas, Venezuelan journalist, specialised in culture and actuality. Writer in Spanish for Daytours4u / Translated to English by: Grégory Noël