01/20/2012 07:06 am ET Updated Mar 21, 2012

How Celebrities Made These South American Destinations Famous

What do Brigitte Bardot, Albert Einstein and the Rat Pack have in common?

They each helped make previously unknown South American towns into popular destinations.

There's been a lot of buzz recently about traveling to South America (Condé Nast Traveller listed the continent as a "Destination to Watch in 2012," Brazil was included in Travel + Leisure's "Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012" and National Geographic included North Colombia in their "Best Trips 2012"), but it was these celebrities and dignitaries of yesteryear that first put these hot spots on the map. Here's a list of our favorite South American destinations and their most famous visitors.

Punta del Este
While it was a visit by Che Guevara in 1961 that helped this Uruguayan beach city gain notoriety, it was stars like the Rat Pack who put it on the map as the "St. Tropez of South America," making Punta a favorite Hollywood destination during the 1960s. After a lull in popularity in the '70s and '80s, Punta del Este is again in fashion for those seeking an understated yet glamourous retreat. Celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell and Robert de Niro have been spotted enjoying the fine sand beaches, charming fishing villages and beachfront restaurants.

Brigitte Bardot, the darling of French cinema and the ultimate 1960s pin-up, first attracted the paparazzi to this Brazilian fishing village. Now, a glamorous getaway, the jet set flocks to Búzios for its unique combination of rustic charm, architectural harmony, incredible beauty and sophisticated boutiques and restaurants. To pay homage to their first celebrity visitor, the city erected a sculpture of Bardot on a street of the same name. In addition, the house Bardot stayed in has been transformed into Cigalon, a restaurant famous for its French cuisine.

Upon arriving in Cartagena, you might have a strange sense of déjà vu. This charming city has been the setting for various novels as well as the backdrop for numerous popular films. Internationally acclaimed author and Cartagena local Gabriel Garcia Marquez has said "all of my books have loose threads of Cartagena in them" and Marlon Brando's 1969 movie "Queimada," (or "Burn!") was filmed in Cartagena. While there, Brando created quite a scandal by walking around his house and garden naked for all the local ladies to see.

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires was all glamour and promise when Albert Einstein arrived in 1925. Invited by the University of Buenos Aires as a guest lecturer, Einstein declared Buenos Aires "a comfortable city but rather boring." We guess it's all relative Albert, as Buenos Aires now boasts one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in South America.

To read more content like this (and to download a free South American Summer Mix), like us on Facebook. You can also follow us on Twitter for additional South America tips and news.