Are you dreaming about backpacking in South America, and are wondering where to start? South America is a huge territory, and it can be intimidating. But I get your back, and you are about to find out the 10 Most incredible routes to go backpacking in South America, from a 1-week to 4-weeks itinerary.
Backpacking in South America is a dream destination for the majority of adventure travelers.
Whether you have some bucket list destinations that are unmissable, such as searching for the best hikes in South America, exploring the amazing National Parks, or soaking in the sun in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, here you can find the perfect itinerary to go Backpacking in South America.
…and why this is the most complete guide for backpacks in South America?
Well, amigos, this guide is a collaboration between some professional travel bloggers from all over the world, who have put these routes together, combined with my personal experience.
With so much expertise, here you can find the best route for you. All you need is to invest in the Best Backpack for Backpacking and decide on your route.
The good news is that Backpacking in South America is easy and safe and it is very affordable. It doesn’t matter if your adventure includes hitchhiking or flying around.
You will also enjoy:
- Backpacking in South America: How to Choose the Best Route for you!?
- Backpacking in South America Best Routes Overview
- Backpacking in South America | 1 WEEK ROUTES
- Backpacking in South America | 2 WEEKS ROUTES
- Backpacking in South America | 3 WEEKS ROUTES
- Plan Your Backpacking in South America
- Backpacking in South America Conclusion
Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel, which often includes staying in inexpensive lodgings and carrying all necessary possessions in a backpack. Once seen as a marginal form of travel undertaken only through necessity, it has since become a mainstream form of tourism
Backpacking in South America: How to Choose the Best Route for you!?
Before we jump into the Best Backpacking in South America, it is important to decide what is the best route for you. A good start is to ask yourself these 3 main questions:
- How much time do you have: 1-week, 2-weeks, 3-weeks, 1 month?
- What is your budget: Are you planning to travel on a budget or you are more of a flashpacker?
- What are your main interests: Are you looking to visit historic cities and enjoy the local cuisine? Or maybe you want to go trekking? Maybe you are looking for more adventures such as surfing, scuba diving, visiting jungles…
South America is without a doubt one of the most diverse continents on the Planet. Here you can find the largest forest in the world, the Amazon.
It is home to the world’s second-highest mountain ranges in the Andes. You can also find world-class surf beaches. Plus you can explore glaciers, deserts and very unique wildlife.
South America attracts older and more experienced backpacker visitors than Southeast Asia, and here you have plenty of options to get off the beaten path, and it is definitely one of the ultimate backpacking destinations.
Backpacking in South America Best Routes Overview
|DURATION||ROUTE||WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT|
|1-WEEK BRAZIL||São Paulo | Paraty | Rio de Janeiro||* Have a taste of Brazil with this 1-week route, |
* Great for fun, culture, and outdoor lovers.
* Enjoy the amazing local cuisine and art in Paraty.
* Visit the main spots of the 2 major cities in Brazil
|1-WEEK BOLIVIA & CHILE||La Paz | Uyuni | San Pedro de Atacama||* You can do this route in only 1-week on an off-road adventure. |
* This is a short-length route, but it is a perfect fit for anyone looking for lots of adventure along with this backpacking in South America route.
|1-WEEK ECUADOR||Quito | Cotoxi Volcano | Quilotoa Crater Lake | Mitad del Mundo | Cuenca||* Explore Quito and enjoy some day trips to Cotopaxi Volcano & Quilotoa Crater. |
* This route is a perfect fit for outdoor lovers.
* Explore volcanos, and amazing lakes and also,
* Visit Cuenca, the most “European city” in South America.
|2-WEEKS BRAZIL||São Paulo | Curitiba | Iguaçu Falls | Florianopolis||* Cultural visit to São Paulo with many museums to explore. |
* Curitiba is a very unique and modern city
* Visit the Wonders of the World, the Iguaçu Falls.
* Florianopolis is a paradise for outdoor lovers and surfers.
|2-WEEKS PERU||Cuzco | Machu Picchu | Arequipa | Chivay | Valley del Colca | Puno | Lake Titicaca||* The best route to visit the main highlights in Peru. |
* Great for adventure travelers with plenty of outdoor activities.
* Visit the ancient town of Machu Picchu and go hike the Montaña Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.
* Go hike the Colca Canyon and visit the incredible floating islands at Lake Titicaca.
|2-WEEKS CHILE & ARGENTINA (PATAGONIA)||Starts in Puerto Montt | Finish in Puerto Natales||* This off-the-beaten-path 1,243 miles route for your backpacking in South America. |
* It is a great route for adventure travelers and for hitchhiking.
* Plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and mountain-bike
|2-WEEKS COLOMBIA, PERU & ARGENTINA||Bogota | Medellin | Lima | Buenos Aires||* This route takes you to the best cities in South America. |
* With plenty of cultural options and also, to enjoy the incredible local cuisine.
|3-WEEKS ARGENTINA & CHILE||Buenos Aires | Puerto Madryn | Usuaia | Torres Del Paine | Perito Moreno | Bariloche | Santiago | Valpariso||* With this itinerary, you are able to explore the big highlights of both countries. |
* With lots of outdoor activities and wildlife along the way.
* Visit wineries in Argentina, go hiking, and whale watching on this route.
|3-WEEKS COLOMBIA & PERU||Cartagena | Medelin | Bogota | Lima | Arequipa | Cuzco | Machu Picchu||* Visit some of the main cities in both countries. |
* Enjoy the phenomenal cuisine and learn more about the ancient history of the Incas.
* Visit the incredible Colca Canyon
* Explore the ancient town of Machu Picchu
|4- WEEKS CHILE & ARGENTINA||San Pedro de Atacama | Atacama Desert | Valparaiso | Santiago | Mendoza | Buenos Aires||* This route is if you have more time to backpack South America|
* Great for adventure travelers and hitchhiking/ camping.
* Travel slower and on a budget, seeing the most amazing spots of each country.
Backpacking in South America | 1 WEEK ROUTES
1) BRAZIL ROUTE: 1-Week Itinerary for the Best of Brazil
One of the best destinations in South America for backpackers is Brazil. Besides being the largest country in South America, it is ironically a great destination for a 1-week only. It happens because of the large variety of options of places to visit within São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states – and they are only 6-hours driving apart. If you are planning a trip to Brazil, this is a great route for you to experience the fun, culture, and beauty of this vast country.
DAYS 1-2: SÃO PAULO
Start this South America backpack route in the largest city in Brazil, São Paulo. You have the option to hire a private guide or to visit by yourself.
Visit the Park Ibirapuera, an urban oasis in the middle of the city. Visit the Vila Mariana is known as the bohemian, culture, and art neighborhood.
On the second day, visit the Cathedral da Sé in the city center, the Municipal Theater which is one of the most important landmarks in São Paulo, and have lunch at the Mercado Municipal. You can rent a bike and ride down the Avenida Paulista, the city’s most important road. If you have more time, you can take amazing day trips from São Paulo.
DAY 3-4: PARATY, RIO DE JANEIRO
Head to Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state (5-hour driving distance). You can take a bus or rent a car. Here you can enjoy one of the most spectacular settings of preserved colonial center, the incredible ocean, surrounded by mountains.
Take a boat tour for the day and go on an island hop – a great place to explore by boat is also Angra dos Reis, with more than 365 islands. You can do kayaking, the city center sightseeing tour and also, take a Jungle-jeep tour and visit the many incredible waterfalls.
DAY 5-7: RIO DE JANEIRO
From Paraty, go to Rio. You can take a bus or rent a car and drive for less than 4-hours. In days you can have the taste of this marvelous city, and get to learn some of the Rio amazing fun facts.
If you take a private tour, you get to visit the main attractions in the city in as short as one day and use the second day to soak by the Copacabana Beach and enjoy some coconut water, while watching the incredible views of your surroundings.
Also, make sure to visit the Christ the Redeemer, take the famous cable car to the Sugar Loaf Mountain, and enjoy an amazing day including hiking at the Floresta da Tijuca, the largest urban jungle in the world.
This is an amazing route to backpacking in South America if you are short on time and want to start to explore the Best of Brazil.
2) BOLIVIA & CHILE: One of the top routes to go Backpacking in South America
Want to go backpacking in South America, but you only have a week, and want to squeeze in an off-road adventure? Bring your energy, because this grueling itinerary takes you through some of the most surreal landscapes on the planet.
DAYS 1-2: LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
Start your journey in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and city in the clouds. Sitting at 3,640 meters above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world.
If you are coming from a lower elevation, be sure to take it easy on your first day to give your body time to acclimate. A great relaxing activity is to ride the public transit gondolas that whisk local commuters around La Paz. One day 2, explore the city. In the evening grab the 9-hour overnight bus to the desert town of Uyuni.
DAY 3-5: UYUNI ROAD TRIP
There isn’t much to see in Uyuni apart from a “train graveyard,” but you won’t be staying here overnight anyway. Instead, pre-book a three-day 4WD tour through the Uyuni Salt Flats, one of the most popular activities in Bolivia.
The Uyuni Salt Flats route is plied by dozens of jeeps every day and is one of the quintessential backpacker experiences in South America. You and your traveling companions will spend your days exploring otherworldly landscapes, including the famous Uyuni Salt flats, where endless salt flats let photographers play with perspective.
DAYS 6-7: SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE
You’ll end your road trip by crossing the border in Chile, where you can find lots of backpacker accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama for your final two nights. Owing to the lack of light pollution, this is one of the best places on the planet for stargazing.
You can also explore the famous Valle de la Luna, where giant sand dunes appear like Martian landscapes. San Pedro has an airport with connections to Santiago, or you can continue your backpacker journey down the coast of Chile.
3) ECUADOR: An amazing route for adventure lovers to go backpacking in South America
Another amazing route for backpacking in South America is if you have14 days to explore. With this route you will explore volcanos, amazing lakes and also, to explore the Cuenca, the most “European city” in South America.
DAYS 1-4: QUITO, ECUADOR
Start your trip in Quito, the country’s capital and a vibrant, fun city to explore. Don’t miss the views of the city from El Panecillo, the basilicas and historic architecture, and delicious coffee and treats at Dulceria Colonial.
Be sure to take it easy your first few days if you have just arrived in Ecuador, as altitude sickness is common due to the very high elevation, and will definitely ruin your trip. Consider chewing coca leaves to counter the effects, and be sure to drink lots of water and save your hiking excursions after you have adjusted to the altitude change.
DAY 5: COTOPAXI VOLCANO (option of a day trip from Quito)
You have several options for day trips from Quito, or you can always spend more time in each place if you have the ability to. For easy day trips from Quito, visit the Cotopaxi Volcano and the Quilotoa Crater Lake excellent hiking, located 50 km and 170 km away from Quito, respectively.
Cotopaxi National Park is home to a massive volcano. The hike begins at 4600 meters above sea level at the parking area, then goes up to the Refugio (refuge) at 4800 meters, then continues on the glacier at 5000 meters- Check here for day tours from Quito.
DAY 6: QUILOTOA CRATER LAKE (option of a day trip from Quito)
Quilotoa is a caldera lake (a collapsed volcano) known for its other-worldly turquoise waters and spectacular views. You can trek down to the bottom and back (only 560m round trip, but very steep) on a day trip, and the Quilotoa Loop (also called the Quilotoa Traverse) is a 3-day hike that completes a loop around the top of the Laguna.
DAYS 7: MITAD DEL MUNDO (option of a day trip from Quito)
Another must-see day trip location from Quito is the Mitad del Mundo, to experience the iconic sensation of standing with “one foot in each hemisphere!” You can book a day tour, take a bus, or take an Uber round-trip.
Backpacking in South America | 2 WEEKS ROUTES
4) BRAZIL ROUTE: 2-Week Itinerary is one of the best backpacking routes in Brazil
If you have 2 weeks to spend backpacking in South America, this is the best route for you. The majority of the international flights arrive at the airport in São Paulo. If this is your case, start your trip to São Paulo. If you fly to Rio, you can start your 2-week in Brazil route spending the first few days before you continue your trip.
DAYS 1-3: SÃO PAULO
You can follow the same itinerary for São Paulo suggested above, or you can hire a private driver to explore more this large and amazing city. São Paulo has also many museums to visit, and if you have more time, the best ones are: Pinacoteca, MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo), Museu do Ipiranga, Museu de Art Moderna (MAM).
DAY 4-7: CURITIBA, PARANA
From São Paulo, head to the south of Brazil to another amazing large city, Curitiba. It is less than 6-hour driving/ bus or you can take a 1-hour flight. Here you can explore one of the greenest cities in the world. You can hire a private driver or explore by yourself.
Visit the unique Wire Opera House, sample some international food and drinks in the Italian Woods neighborhood, take a walking tour of the historic district, and enjoy other great activities, such as the scenic train ride Curitiba-Paranaguá.
DAY 8-10: IGUAÇU FALLS
Head next to Iguaçu Falls, to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You can take a short and cheap flight from Curitiba, or take a bus/ car for an 8-hour drive. You can visit the waterfalls in different ways, like by walking or boat tours.
While in the area, you can walk along two bridges, as Iguaçu City is located at the triple border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. You need to buy your ticket in advance – check here for the tickets.
DAY 11-14: FLORIANÓPOLIS, SANTA CATARINA
From Curitiba, head to Florianopolis for some relaxation on this magical island. It is less than a 5-hour drive/ car or you can take an affordable domestic flight.
Floripa, as the locals call it, is filled with white-sand beaches, diverse hiking trails, and lush rainforests. The center of the island has a hippie vibe, with a trendy area and rustic restaurants, perfect for backpackers. Florianopolis is one of the ultimate destinations for backpackers in South America!
5) PERU: Discover the best of Peru in a 2-weeks backpacking route
Peru is a bucket list destination to go Backpacking in South America for any backpacker lover. This is because of the variety of things to do and see while doing this route. With plenty of Inca historical sites to visit, the phenomenal local cuisine, to the Best Hikes in Peru, making it a paradise for Adventure Travelers –
Plus, travel in Peru is very cheap. Ideally, this route takes 2-weeks, but if you have less time, you can always skip some attractions and still explore Peru in less time. The best transportation options to travel around Peru are buses for long-distance, small group tour vans, and hiring a private driver to take you to sites around the Cusco region, as the prices are very affordable.
DAYS 1-3: CUZCO
Start this incredible South America backpack route in Cuzco, the archaeological capital of the Americas. Plan to spend a few days in Cusco, acclimatizing to the altitude (11,152 ft.). Make sure to visit the Cathedral in the main square and explore the busy city local market and the incredible local cuisine.
DAYS 4: DAY TRIPS FROM CUSCO
Take a day trip from Cusco going on small group tours. Explore the fascinating Sacred Valley. Visit the ancient site of Pisac, the incredible Salinas de Maras, the sacred valley of Urubamba, and the ancient Inca temple and fortress of Ollantaytambo.
DAYS 5-6: AGUAS CALIENTES & MACHU PICCHU
You can go on a private tour or take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The next morning get up early and take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and spend the day exploring the ancient city. You have the choice to climb the Montaña Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu – you need to buy the ticket in advance.
DAYS 7-9: AREQUIPA
Take the night bus from Cusco to Arequipa (a 7-hour trip). Explore the legendary White City of Arequipa. Walk the Historic Center, and visit the awe-inspiring museums. Don’t miss the Cathedral Basilica in the man square and the Santa Catalina Monastery. Visit the Yanahuara viewpoint for some good views and photos of the volcano El Misti.
DAY 10-12: CHIVAY & VALLE DEL COLCA
This section of the trip is better done by a small group tour – check options here. Visit one of the deepest Canyons in the world. Stop at Cruz del Cóndor for some of the most beautiful views of the canyon and to watch the flying of the condors.
During this stunning driving, you will stop and appreciate farming terraces, ti vicunas, alpacas, and llamas. Visit eh Tocra lake to see the flamencos and some amazing landscapes.
DAYS 13: PUNO & LAKE TITICACA (day trip from Puno)
Take a full-day tour lunch to lake Titicaca. Spend the day at the world’s highest lake, Lake Titicaca. Visit the fascinating floating islands of Uros and hear from the locals how reed islands are made. Enjoy the performance and the nicely done fresh fish lunch from the Quechua community.
Hike around the island for the great views. Make your way back to Arequipa.
DAY 14: BACK TO CUZCO
Take the train back from Puno to Cuzco. Perurail offers daily departures.
6) CHILE & ARGENTINA: The adventurous Patagonia Route to go backpacking in South America
One of the most amazing places to go backpacking in South America is definitely Patagonia. Traveling across Patagonia is an amazing experience. The suggested route starts in Puerto Montt and finishes in Puerto Natales.
The total distance of the route is about 1243 miles (2000 km) and takes around 2-weeks to complete, depending on how many stops you want to make. This backpacking route in South America includes off-the-beaten-path places and famous landmarks in two countries, Chile and Argentina.
Renting a car will help you to save some money on accommodation camping is much easier if you have a car and on food, you can buy a lot of stuff in supermarkets in Puerto Montt where everything is significantly cheaper than on the Carretera.
Cheap accommodation like camping and hostels is in abundance in the region which means traveling here can be done on a tight budget.
DAY 1 – 7: PUERTO MONTT IN CHILE & CARRETERA AUSTRAL IN CHILE
Spend the first week of your 2-weeks in Patagonia in Chile. Considered the bouncing-off point for Chile’s islands and Patagonian fjords, with the Andes mountains featuring as a striking backdrop, Puerto Montt is a great city to visit on your Chilean adventures. There are many outdoor activities to do here like hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, cycling, etc. It’s a real paradise for nature lovers.
The big part of the route, 1200 km is on the Carretera Austral in Chile, a spectacular area with many outdoor activities. The scenery along the Carretera is fantastic; lush green forest, turquoise color lakes, mountain rivers, beautiful waterfalls, and picturesque mountains.
The area has many incredible one-day and multi-day hikes, mountain-biking trails, and great spots for rafting and kayaking.
DAY 8-14: EXPLORE THE ARGENTINA SIDE OF PATAGONIA
The Argentinian part of the route includes El Chalten, the hiking capital of the country, and Perito Moreno Glacier, the most impressive natural attraction in this part of the world. Both places offer some incredible adventure experiences like hiking, rock climbing, glacier hiking, and kayaking.
The route ends in Puerto Natales, a small town that is used as a gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. The park is well-known as one of the best places for hiking in the region. There are two challenging long-distance treks and many easy day-hikes.
7) COLOMBIA TO ARGENTINA: The best backpacking route for experiencing the amazing cities in South America
When deciding which route to take on your South America backpacking trip you may be spoiled for choice. One route that you may want to consider to be able to see some of South America’s best cities would see you starting in Colombia’s capital and heading down to the Southern cone.
DAY 1-3: BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
Flying into Bogota, Colombia from the US or Europe you can get quickly get acquainted with the La Candelaria neighborhood, (a great place to try the best Colombian Food from all regions) and see some of the country’s best museums and architecture.
DAY 4-7: MEDELLIN
Next on this route of backpacking in South America, travel by bus up to Medellin (10 hrs) to explore the city of the eternal spring and to try the infamous Banjea Paisa. In Medellin, you can enjoy places such as the El Poblado neighborhood and take a trip to a local coffee farm
DAY 8-10: LIMA, PERU
From Medellin take a plane directly to Lima (3 hrs) and explore the architecture of the colonial buildings the Centro Historico. Then do some souvenir shopping in Miraflores and spend a couple of nights in Barranco, Lima’s bohemian neighborhood where you’ll try some of Peru’s finest ceviche
DAYS 11-14: BUENOS AIRES
From Lima, you can get a direct flight to Buenos Aires (4 hrs) or even take the bus (72 hrs). On arrival in Buenos Aires head over to San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city and be sure to see the bustling Sunday market there.
Backpacking in South America | 3 WEEKS ROUTES
3) ARGENTINA & CHILE: Amazing Itinerary for the best of Southern South America
If you have 3 weeks to backpack in South America this is a great route. But if you have more time to explore slower each location, it is even better. Traveling to the most southern tip of South America is one of the best trips you can make! Spend three weeks exploring the most beautiful destinations in Argentina and Chile with this bucket list Argentina-Chile travel itinerary, covering all the big highlights of both countries.
DAYS 1-2: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Start your trip in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and of the tango. The city has many landmarks, museums, restaurants, and different neighborhoods to keep you entertained for weeks. Try to keep your stay limited to a few days, especially as you’ll be coming back at the end of your trip.
DAY 3-4: PUERTO MADRYN
Head to Puerto Madryn and the Peninsula Valdes by bus. This is one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Argentina, known for its whale watching opportunities June-December. There are penguins, elephant seals, and other wildlife as well – Check for tickets here.
DAYS 5-7: USHUAIA
Take the bus further south to the most southern city in the world: Ushuaia. It’s a great place for skiing, exploring small glaciers, and hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, one of the best National Parks in South America.
DAYS 8-14: HEAD TO CHILE AND EXPLORE TORRES DEL PAINE & PERITO MORENO
Your next stop should be Torres del Paine, one of the most stunning reserves for multiday hikes. You’ll see wildlife, camp in beautiful places, and enjoy some stunning glaciers.
Continue this amazing backpacking in South America route by taking the bus to the biggest glaciers outside the poles next: the Perito Moreno. There is not much else to do in the area, so don’t stay too long and just focus on a trip to the glacier.
DAYS 15-18 BARILOCHE
Head to Bariloche and explore this stunning region for its lake district next. Cross the border with Chile and enjoy the lakes from the Chilean side as well before heading up north. In this region, you can find amazing hiking.
On the border of Argentina and Chile lurks the 12,388ft (3,776m) volcano that gives the Lanín National Park its name. Cerro Tronador in Nahuel Huapi National Park is the highest mountain in Argentina’s Lakes region – its triplet of peaks – Argentino, Internacional, and Chileno – forming part of the Andes range.
If you are into skiing, Cerro Catedral is the biggest lift-accessed ski area in South America and it’s just a short bus ride away from Bariloche’s town center. It has 75mi (120km) slopes over a vertical drop of 3,773 ft (1,150m), but the stand-out feature is the view of the Nahuel Huapi Lake and the surrounding national park.
DAY 19 -21: EXPLORE THE CITIES OF SANTIAGO & VALPARAISO
The first stop in Chile is the capital Santiago. Here you can find the original art galleries, innovative design stores, and arts & crafts fairs, as well as restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. And if you are a night owl, do not miss Barrio Bellavista’s nightlife! Nestled within the Andes Mountains, there are so many of the best things to do. Santiago has an incredible mix of ancient tradition, European influence, and beautiful wonders of the natural world will have your time in the city fille
You can also include a day trip to the graffiti capital Valparaiso as well. Located only 70 miles northwest of Santiago, the city is well known for its bohemian, artistic vibe, and lovely vistas, which makes it a great destination to include during your backpacking in South America.
5) COLOMBIA & PERU: Route to discover the best of the Caribean, Inca Trails and Machu Picchu
Another amazing route to go backpacking in South America, and explore from the tropical Paradise in the Caribean to uncover one of the top destinations in South America, Peru, and the amazing cuisine to the ancient history of the Incas. You can do this route in 3 weeks and if you have more time to explore South America, extend your stay to 4-weeks.
DAYS 1-4: CARTAGENA AND AROUND, COLOMBIA
Start your backpacking in South America adventure in Colombia and the Northern beach town of Cartagena. Admire the colonial architecture in the Walled City (Old City) before taking a few days to explore the islands of Tierra Bomba – a tropical paradise in the Caribbean.
DAY 5-9: MEDELLIN
A 13-hour bus journey south through rural Colombia brings you to the famous city of Medellin. Once home to the infamous Narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar, Medellin was once considered the most dangerous city in the world. Discover the city’s tumultuous past on a Comuna 13 tour and conquer the 740 step ascent of El Peñón de Guatapé.
DAYS 10-12: BOGOTA
Time to explore the capital city of Colombia. An 8-hour bus journey from Medellin and is your last destination in Colombia. Wander around the Candelaria district, unearthing commissioned street art pieces on back-alley walls.
DAYS 13-15: LIMA, PERU
Continue your backpack in the South America route, leaving Colombia behind, for now, a 3-hour flight from Bogota brings you to your first destination in Peru – Lima. The capital city is a great place to be introduced to Peruvian cuisine and the famous ceviche – a dish of raw fish cured in citrus juices. Try washing it down with a pisco sour, the national drink of Peru.
DAY 15-16: AREQUIPA
Your nest destination is Arequipa, accessible from Lima via overnight bus or 90-minute flight, is a great base to explore one of the natural wonders of Peru.
Take a day trip to the breathtaking Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the World.
DAYS 17-19: CUSCO
Your final destination on your whistle-stop 3 to 4-week backpacking tour around South America is Cusco. Explore the heart of Sacred Valley at the Moray ruins and Maras Salt mines, before heading off to the highlight of any South America excursion: Machu Picchu – Check train tickets here.
DAYS 20-21: MACHU PICCHU
Discover the history of the famous Inca ruins on a day trip from Ollantaytambo, or via the 3-day Inca trek. Whichever way you choose to explore Machu Picchu, it is sure to provide a wonderful culmination to your trip!
10) CHILE & ARGENTINA: 4 Weeks Itinerary for the most adventurous Backpacking in South America
For the adventurous, backpacking in South America, the hitchhiking / camping trip from Chile to Argentina is also an option for an unforgettable and rewarding experience. This route to go backpacking in South America begins after a tour of Bolivia’s famous Uyuni salt flats, with San Pedro de Atacama being the drop-off point, and ends at the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aries.
The whole trip can take between 4 weeks, depending on the number of stop-offs and luck at hitching a ride. Hitchhiking is safe and straightforward in Chile and Argentina, with many friendly truckers wanting some company or just happy to give a helping hand.
What’s more, is that these countries are perfect for camping. Chile’s Route 5 highway runs close to beaches which are a great spot to camp, and the Atacama desert is considered one of the best places in the world to see stars at night. The Argentinian countryside has plenty of forests, lakes, and campsites to enjoy the remote and beautiful outdoors.
WEEK 1: SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, BOLIVIA TO ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE
From San Pedro, hitchhike west to the coastal city of Antofagasta, where camping supplies can be bought at the mall. On the outskirts of town is the surreal sculpture Mano de Desierto (hand of the desert), which is worth visiting.
WEEK 2: ATACAMA
Next, hitch a ride south, through the Atacama desert and towards La Serena, known for its beautiful beaches and historic churches. There are many towns along the coast worth exploring and camping on the beaches, such as Caldera and Puerto Viejo.
WEEK 3: VALPARAISO & SANTIAGO
Continue south towards the trendy city of Valparaiso, full of brightly colored houses and creative street art. The Capital city of Santiago is just 70 miles east of here, which is the last stop in Chile before crossing the border into Argentina.
WEEK 4: MENDOZA TO BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
After crossing the border is Mendoza, Argentina’s most important city for producing wine and famous for winery tours. The Hitchhiking route will head east across the beautiful Argentinian Countryside. Some excellent stop-off points are the nature city of San Luis and the small town of Merlot, that’s surrounded by a spectacular mountainous landscape. Follow the route north towards the city of Cordoba, Argentina’s second-largest city. Then onto Buenos Aries, which is the final stop of this epic South American route!
Plan Your Backpacking in South America
BUDGET: The good news is that backpacking in South America is very affordable, especially if you are traveling from other parts of the world, such as the U.S. or Europe when the exchange rate is really good. Planning an average budget of $50 to $100 USD per day/ person is relatively easy.
TRANSPORTATION: When you choose to backpack in South America, it is important to know that it is generally easy to get around the continent. It is really inexpensive to travel by just or fly. Trains are relatively rare in South America. If you decide to rent a car, it is also a good option as you can find the major international rental car companies in the main airports. South America is also safe if you decide to hitchhike around.
Request a quote and get a 15% off your rental car when you book through this site. I use and recommend RentalCar because it is the most reliable rental car source, and it allows you to compare the prices of different places.
GROUP & PRIVATE TOURS: Group or private tours are also great options, especially for some activities. A safe and great option I recommend is to book through Viator or Get Your Guide, as they have many options for tours and you can plan and book ahead.
ACCOMMODATIONS: You can find a large range of accommodations from a budget hostel or basic hotel to a large hotel chain. Make sure you book your accommodation from a reliable source, where you can also make cancelations within 24-hours. I recommend using Booking.com because of the thousands of reliable options.
SAFETY: Backpacking in South America is safe, as long as you pre-plan your route. Have a plan on where you will stay, what transportation will you take, and places you want to visit. Also, leave your jewelry at home, and watch your electronics closely.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Don’t travel to South America without Travel Insurance, as anything can go wrong. I use and recommend World Nomads, as they are the best option for travel insurance that fits any kind of adventure.
LANGUAGE: Don’t expect many people to speak English outside the major cities in South America. I recommend trying to learn some basic Spanish before your trip, or Portuguese if you are traveling to Brazil. It can be as easy as these 13 cool ways to learn Spanish without leaving home. If you don’t have the chance to learn the language, you can take with you a Spanish phrasebook or if you are going to Brazil take a Portuguese phrasebook. Or take a Translator device is also a good option.
BACKPACK FOR BACKPACKING: Make sure you invest in a good quality backpack that is comfortable to carry around and you can fit all your belongings safely.
WHEN TO VISIT SOUTH AMERICA: It really depends where you are going. The countries near the equator do not experience distinct seasons. As you go further south, the more seasonal the climate. Remember that the southern hemisphere seasons are reversed, with summer roughly from November to February, and winter from June to August. The high season for all countries in South America is from December-February. Check the weather for the destination you are going to.
Travel Insurance for your trip
I never leave my home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. Things can go wrong, and you don’t want to get stuck paying tons of money if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance.
World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover their trip essentials. Especially if you are like me, travel insurance is ideal for adventurous travelers. Travel smarter and safer – You can do your quick quote below and find out how little you can pay for the essential benefit of Travel Insurance for your next trip!
Backpacking in South America Conclusion
Well amigos, by now you can see that Backpacking South America is a dream destination for any adventurer traveler as it offers a large variety of incredible things to do, see and explore. There is a route for any adventure traveler or any taste or personal interest to choose from.
Backpacking in South America is also an inexpensive trip where you can make the most of your budget. Also, it is safe to backpack in South America, as long as you plan and prepare before your trip.
To really experience and emerge on the local culture, try not to stay at chain hotels or eat at fancy touristy restaurants. I don’t even need to mention to NEVER eat fast food. Support the local economy in any way possible as eating at local restaurants, and hiring a local guide when possible.
When visiting remote places and interacting with indigenous villages or small communities, always ask before taking photos. Always show them the respect they all deserve. And never forget to be a responsible traveler!
Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your trip:
- The Top 15 Budget Backpacks for Backpacking
- 11-Most Epic Hikes in South America
- 16 Best Hikes in Peru + Tips
- 10 Top-rated National Parks in South America
- 30 Dream Destinations for Adventure Travelers
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