Although it took them a while, in 1503, the Europeans realized that what Columbus had encountered while sailing the ocean blue was in fact a New World. And even after half a millennium of "Westernization," the continent of South America still holds that same promise of adventure that lured so many settlers to its unknown shores. The promise of untold fortune remains less of a draw. Nevertheless, the continent offers the intrepid traveler a chance to explore the heart of the Amazon rainforest, home to more species than any other ecosystem on Earth, to climb the ancient Inca trails that carve through the Andes, to bask on stretches of white-sand beaches, and heck, maybe even to see a penguin or two. When imagining a trip to South America, the typical tourist attractions generally come to mind: the incredible party of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the hallowed ruins of Machu Picchu, the tango and steak of a night out in Buenos Aires. But what is most enjoyable about a journey through América del Sur is the unexpected: the fresh alpaca meat of Peru, the law prohibiting topless beaches in Brazil, the breathtaking salt flats of Bolivia. So with an open mind and a voyager's sense of exploration, start your own journey to South America, where adventure is waiting.