San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the mid-west of the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of the nation. San José’s metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million. Though few people live in the city center, it is the most important working area of the country, which brings in more than a million people daily. According to studies on Latin America, San José is one of the safest and least violent cities in the region.] In 2006, the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture. San José is the sixth-most important destination in Latin America. San Jose wheelchair access is quite poor, which puts the onus on the visitor to plan their visit in great detail.
Quito is the capital and the largest city of Ecuador, and at an elevation of 2,850 metres above sea level, the second-highest official capital city in the world, after La Paz, and the one which is closest to the equator. It is located in the Andes Mountains. With a population of 2,671,191 according to statistical projections, Quito is the most populous city in Ecuador. It is also the capital of the Pichincha province and the seat of the Metropolitan District of Quito. The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito and Kraków, Poland, were among the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, in 1978. The central square of Quito is located about 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the equator; the city itself extends to within about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of zero latitude. A monument and museum marking the general location of the equator is known locally as la mitad del mundo (the middle of the world), to avoid confusion, as the word ecuador is Spanish for equator.
Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay. The city is located on the left bank of the Paraguay River, almost at the confluence of this river with the River Pilcomayo, on the South American continent. The Paraguay River and the Bay of Asunción in the northwest separate the city from the Occidental Region of Paraguay and Argentina in the south part of the city. The city is an autonomous capital district and the Asunción metropolitan area has around two million inhabitants. Asunción is one of the oldest cities in South America and the longest continually inhabited area in the Río de la Plata Basin. Asuncion wheelchair access travel options are limited, but on the positive side, it is said to be one of the cheapest cities in the world for foreign visitors. However, you really need to plan and work out how you will overcome all access barriers before booking any tickets to Asunción.
Rio de Janeiro (Rio) is the second-most populous municipality in Brazil and the sixth-most populous in the Americas. Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s third-most populous state. Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site, named “Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea”, by UNESCO as a Cultural Landscape. The home of many universities and institutes, it is the second-largest center of research and development in Brazil, accounting for 17% of national scientific output according to 2005 data. Despite the high perception of crime, the city has a lower incidence of crime than Northeast Brazil, but it is far more criminalized than the south region of Brazil, which is considered the safest in the country. Rio de Janeiro wheelchair access is good (by South American standards). The 2016 Olympics and paralympics saw the city lift its game somewhat to support disability travel for the Paralympics. Rio is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, Carnival, samba, bossa nova, and balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. In addition to the beaches, some of the most famous landmarks include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable car; the Sambódromo (Sambadrome), a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums.
Montevideo is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. The city proper has a population of around 2 million. This southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo is situated on the southern coast of the country, on the northeastern bank of the Río de la Plata. The city was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst the Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region. Montevideo wheelchair access to the built environment is better than most South American cities which is good news. However accessible transport is a big let down, making disability travel difficult. The city is the seat of the administrative headquarters of Mercosur and ALADI, Latin America’s leading trade blocs, a position that entailed comparisons to the role of Brussels in Europe. In 2019, it has a projected GDP of $47.7 billion, with a per capita of $27,542.
La Paz is the seat of government and the de facto national capital of the State of Bolivia (the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre). Its metropolitan area, which is formed by La Paz, El Alto and Viacha, makes up the most populous urban area in Bolivia, with a population of 2.5 million. The city, located in west-central Bolivia 68 km (42 mi) southeast of Lake Titicaca, is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River. It is located in a bowl-like depression surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. At an elevation of roughly 3,650 m above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Due to its altitude, La Paz has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters. La Paz is also an important cultural center of Latin America, as it hosts several landmarks belonging to the colonial times, such as the San Francisco Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Plaza Murillo and the Jaén Street. La Paz wheelchair access is poor and those with a mobility impairment must do serious planning to visit this amazing city.
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the South American continent’s southeastern coast. “Buenos Aires” can be translated as “fair winds” or “good airs”, but the former was the meaning intended by the founders in the 16th century. The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas, with a population of around 14 million. Buenos Aires is a multicultural city, being home to multiple ethnic and religious groups. Several languages are spoken in the city in addition to Spanish, contributing to its culture and the dialect spoken in the city and in some other parts of the country. This is because in the last 150 years the city, and the country in general, has been a major recipient of millions of immigrants from all over the world, making it a melting pot where several ethnic groups live together and being considered as one of the most diverse cities of the Americas.
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With a population of more than 9 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru and the third-largest city in the Americas (after São Paulo and Mexico City). Lima is home to one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551, during the Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas. Lima wheelchair access is good by South American standards, but challenging for western tourists.
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia. The city is located in the center of Colombia, on a high plateau known as the Bogotá savanna, part of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes. It is the third-highest capital in South America (after Quito and La Paz), at an average of 2,640 metres above sea level. Bogotá is home to the largest number of universities and research centers in the country and is an important cultural center, with many theaters, libraries and museums, of which the Museo del Oro is the most important. Bogota wheelchair access is very limited as this is a relatively poor country. Poverty in Bogota is caused by the serious problem of maldistribution of income. This city is one of the most unequal Latin American countries in terms of wealth distribution.
Santiago is the capital and largest city of Chile as well as one of the largest cities in the Americas. It is the center of Chile’s largest and most densely populated conurbation, the Santiago Metropolitan Region, whose total population is 7 million. The city is entirely located in the Chile’s central valley. Most of the city lies between 500m and 650m above mean sea level. Founded in 1541 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia. Santiago wheelchair access is superior to elsewhere in Chile. Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th-century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago’s cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within an hour of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Santiago’s Metro (subway) is in the process of making subway lines more accessible. Public bus company Transantiago has access ramps and spaces for wheelchairs on new buses. Some street lights have noise-indicated crossings for the blind. Those in wheelchairs will find Chile’s narrow and poorly maintained sidewalks awkward to negotiate. Crossing streets is also tricky, but most Chilean drivers are courteous toward pedestrians – especially those with obvious handicaps.